The invitees to the Montreal Canadiens 2009-10 training camp reported to the Brassard practice facility for their physicals.
After they reported in, the players were out to talk to the media.
“I haven’t felt this good in a long time,” said team heavyweight Georges Laraque. “My back is good.”
“When I worked out this summer, I did a lot of stuff to get my back better. I lost a lot of weight (20 lbs) and did a lot of yoga.”
Coming in to camp at 245 pounds, Laraque is the lightest he’s played since becoming a pro.
“Last year I was fit when I came in,” he said. “This is something I had to do for my back to be better, and it worked. I still feel confident.”
He refused to comment on, former Hab enforcer, Gino Odjick’s remarks last week on his “fighting code” .
“We were in different times. He was in a time when there was no instigator rule and now the times are different.”
Laraque then looked at the revamped roster that GM Bob Gainey assembled over the summer.
“We’re not an old team,” he said. “(We have) a lot of energy guys a lot of young guys, a lot of speed and we have a lot of size too so we’ll be able to play any style of game that any team will throw at us.”
“We were expecting those kind of things,” added center Maxim Lapierre referring to last season’s disappointments.
“With those changes, we’re pretty sure we’re going have the kind of team that’s gonna compete every night.”
Lapierre had surgery on his right ankle to shave off some bone. It’s still a bit sore, but it’s not expected to give him problems.
“We’re in great shape for the start of the season and we’ll just have to keep bringing it for 82 games,” he said.
“Everybody starts on the same level,” said Latendresse, noting the new roster and coaching changes.
He hopes his off-season work will earn him a position on one of the top forward lines this season and possibly see some power-play time as well.
“I’m just gonna try to show that that’s my spot and that’s where I want to play,” he said.
Latendresse was touted as a potential power forward when he was drafted, but that did not emerge under coach Guy Carbonneau.
He met with coach Jacques Martin last month and said it was a positive talk.
“He seems like a guy who knows where he’s going, he said. “I think he’s going to be ready. He really loves guys that are in shape.”
With only a trio of francophone players on the current roster, Latendresse joked that they will have to get some of the others to learn French and help them in the dressing room.
Newcomer Hal Gill seems happy with the leadership aspect of the team this season and is not concerned that the Canadiens do not have a captain yet.
“I think captain is overrated sometimes,” he said. “You don’t need a C on your jersey to be a leader.”
“There’s a lot of guys that are in a leadership position,” the big defenceman said. “It’s part of the way that management when out to get guys. I think they’ve done a good job at that.”
While he his impressed with the roster list put together, Gill made a very key comment on it, “It doesn’t matter what you see on paper. We have to put the rubber to the road.”
The veteran is looking forward to coming to the pressure cooker of Montreal after winning a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh last season.
“Every game is a big game and you guys,of course, remind us everyday,” he said. “It would be a real special thing to have some success here.”
Gill then talked about goalie Carey Price, and saw how former teammate Marc-Andre Fleury’s early career struggles mirrored Price last season.
“He’s got a real good head on his shoulders and obviously he’s talented. We have to let him play and let him do his thing,” he said.
“He’s getting over all this attention from the media and eventually he’s just gotta do his thing and not worry about it. He’s got a good foundation.”
“My roll is to be big in front of the net and give Carey a view of the puck.” he added. “If he can’t see it, then I have to block it for him.”
Fellow blueliner Josh Gorges noted that the arrival of the new players looks to be very promising after some impromptu skating sessions.
“It’s like they’ve been here for two or three years,” he said. “They fit right in. We’re all excited to see each other again and meet the new guys.”
“There’s a buzz within the dressing room that I didn’t feel so much last year.” he added. “You can just sense it in the room that guys want to get going and want to get playing with each other here this year.”
As with Gill, Georges feels that with the current roster, a necessity of a captain is not a key concern.
“It’s gonna be big shoes to fill, there’s no question about it,” he said on the departure of Saku Koivu.
“Everyone is somewhat of a leader in the room. They lead in their own way. A captain will get appointed, but even before you put the C on, the players know who the real leaders on the team are. We’ve a lot of guys that can step up to fill that void, fill that roll, I think there has to be a group of guys that are pushing in the same direction and buying into the same system.”
Practice sessions begin Sunday morning at 10am, with the first pre-season game on Thursday against the Florida Panthers.
To start out, the team is being split into three practice squads as follows;
Team A: Goal: Missiaen, Price; Defence: Henry, Mara, Markov, Stejskal, St. Denis, Subban; Forwards: D'Agostini, Johansson, Laraque, Lapierre, Latendresse, Lefebvre, Metropolit, Russell, Stewart, Trotter.
Team B: Goal: Halak, Mayer; Defence: Anderson, Bennett, Carle, Hamrlik, Spacek, Weber; Forwards: Cammalleri, Chipchura, Conboy, Desharnais, Fortier, Glumac, Gomez, A. Kostitsyn, Pacioretty, White.
Team C: Goal: Desjardins, Sanford; Defence: Belle, Benoit, Busto, Gill, Gorges, O'Byrne; Forwards: Darche, Gionta, S. Kostitsyn, Maxwell, Moen, Neilson, Plekanec, Pyatt, Wyman.
This article originally appears in my blog Ya! The Habs Rule!