Roster Decisions | Habs Notepad

Chris Wideman (Photo by TVA Sports)

ROCKET SPORTS MEDIA | LAVAL, QC. — Training camp is winding down as the final  cuts are expected on Monday, as teams prepare their cap compliant roster to meet the National Hockey League’s (NHL) 5:00pm Eastern time deadline.

The Canadiens board a plane on Tuesday to head to Toronto for Wednesday’s season opener. The Maple Leafs will want to pay back the Habs for ending their 2020-21 season on a sour note.

Thursday’s news about Carey Price voluntarily taking part in the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program stunned his teammates. Without their star goalie, it will make it more difficult to collect two points nightly in the standings.

“As a group, they see [Price’s absence] as a challenge. He’s our Crosby, our McDavid,” Dominique Ducharme said on Saturday. “We have to prove ourselves again. It hasn’t stopped since last year in February.”

Ducharme is referring to the last season’s condensed regular season schedule, where they played 25 games in 43 days, after being shut down a week due to COVID. In the postseason, the coaching staff used the underdog card to motivate the troops. Early indications are that they’ll use the same strategy to start the season.

“They’re throwing curveballs to test us. We’re going to take it, and make sure we hit the curveballs the right way,” added the coach.

Depth Role Battles

The Canadiens top three lines seem set in stone for Wednesday’s season opener. The remaining question marks are around the fourth line. Ducharme has tried several different combinations, hoping to find the recipe for success. Jesse Ylonen was assigned to the Rocket following Saturday’s practice.

Saturday’s practice lines

At the start of the camp, the battle for that role was between Ryan Poehling and Cedric Paquette. Midway through the camp, Mathieu Perreault was added to the mix, and played down the middle in two preseason games.

Based on Saturday’s lines at practice, it looks like Perreault has the edge for the final spot at centre. The 33-year old was moved to the wing several years ago in Winnipeg due to back problems while taking faceoffs.

Paquette is expected to join his teammates for practice on Monday, after missing significant time in the camp with a groin injury. He may get a shot to earn the fourth line centre position, after getting dressed for one exhibition game.

Poehling was the only player in Montreal’s training camp that was dressed for five preseason games. Things can change until Wednesday night’s puck drop, but based on Saturday’s practice, it appears that the 22-year old won’t be in the starting lineup at Scotiabank Arena.

Ducharme advised on Saturday that Mike Hoffman is expected to join his teammates for practice during the week of October 18th. The forward suffered a lower-body injury prior to the start of training camp, and his return will force the coach to make additional lineup decisions.

Guhle Remains at Camp

Kaiden Guhle has been one of the few good stories from this year’s training camp. The 19-year old has shown that he will have a future in the NHL. In all likelihood, Guhle will spend the season with the Prince Albert Raiders in the Western Hockey League.

“I’m just trying to work hard in practice every day and just trying to get better every day. That’s all that you can really do,” said the defenceman on Saturday.

Throughout the camp, the coach has repeated that he’s never heard of players making it to the NHL too late. “A young guy like this, the experiences you can gain from going to the World Juniors, or going through a season, being a leader, and playing a lot of minutes, or going deep in the playoffs, things like that, those times don’t come back. You never can go back to 18 or 19. Those things you gain at that age, you cannot gain that anywhere else,” Ducharme said.

The coach doesn’t believe in keeping a young player with the club in a reduced role. “To keep a young guy, he needs to be involved and play. That doesn’t mean it’s playing 82 games. Sometimes, a kid needs to take a step back. But to help the progression, you need that time on the ice.”

Saturday’s defensive pairings

On Saturday, Guhle was paired with Sami Niku on the fourth pairing. Niku missed time with a concussion, after 5:26 of ice time in a match against the Senators. A decision needs to be made with a small sample size. If he doesn’t make the cut, Niku must clear waivers before reporting to Laval.

On the injury front, Joel Edmundson is scheduled to return in two weeks, while no timeframe is available for Mattias Norlinder.

Habs Snitch on Canes

Daily Faceoff’s Franck Seravalli reported on Friday, that it’s believed that the Canadiens snitched on the Hurricanes to the NHL. Article 15.4 of the NHL/NHLPA collective bargaining agreement mandates that each team schedules no less than six and no more than eight exhibition games during training camp.

According to Seravalli, there are thoughts that the Canadiens alerted the NHL that Hurricanes only scheduled four matches.

The off-ice rivalry between the organizations resembles a badly written scene of a soap opera on network television. I think it’s unlikely that any of this transcends to ice-level when the teams face each other.

Rocket Swept

The Rocket lost a pair of preseason matches in Belleville over the weekend. On Friday, the Senators handed the Rocket a 5-3 loss. Belleville scored two goals in 54 seconds in the final moments of the middle frame that gave them momentum.

“The players are currently learning. We made several costly turnovers, a bad line change that cost us a big goal. We have a lot of adjustments to make,” Jean-Francois Houle told 91.9 Sports post-game.

On Saturday, Kevin Roy opened the scoring before Toronto answered with a pair of goals before the end of the first period. There was no scoring in the final 40 minutes as the Marlies went on to a 2-1 win versus the Rocket.

“The effort was there, the forechecking was better, less turnovers, more cohesion with the puck. It would have been fun to get the victory, but the effort was there, and that’s what we ask from our players,” explained Houle.

Training camp resumes this week for Laval with several practices before Friday’s season opener at Place Bell against Belleville.

Lions Camp Opens

The Trois-Rivieres Lions training camp opened on Thursday with off-ice training. A total of 27 players were invited to participate. 

Arsen Khisamutdinov and Shawn St-Amant will join Trois-Rivieres on Tuesday, after being cut from Laval. Khisamutdinov recorded one point in 15 games with the Rocket last season, while St-Amant collected 31 points in 29 games with the ECHL’s Fort Wayne Komets.

The Lions released the following five players on Sunday from camp:

  • Anthony Dumont-Bouchard
  • Jacob Graveline
  • Eliott St-Pierre
  • Xavier Parenteau
  • Donovan Vezina

Training camp runs until Thursday, and the Lions open their season on October 21st against the Newfoundland Growlers.

Canadiens Connection podcast

Current Habs topics were discussed on this week’s episode of the Canadiens Connection. Listen, share and subscribe!

By Chris G., Senior Writer
All Habs Hockey Magazine
Copyright © 2021 Rocket Sports

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