Montreal Canadiens Brian Gionta, left to right, Travis Moen, Raphael Diaz and Alex Galchenyuk, far right, listen to head coach Michel Therrien during the Montreal Canadiens training camp in Montreal on Monday, January 14, 2013.
Photograph by: Allen McInnis, The Gazette
MONTREAL — There was a little bit of everything on Day Two of the Canadiens training camp.
There were 3-on-2 drills, a 5-on-5 scrimmage, a shootout competition and, as the session wore down and players worked on individual skills, Brandon Prust and Ryan White dropped the gloves.
“We’re both working on our conditioning,” said Prust, who may be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the NHL. “In a fight, it’s a different kind of conditioning. You’ve got to get your lungs so you can hang in there for a while.”
“We were just fooling around,” White said of the tussle which involved a lot of jersey-tugging between two guys who might be battling each other for ice time in the coming season.
Prust and White have spent most of their careers playing on the wing but coach Michel Therrien has them penciled in at centre as he looks for more toughness at that position. Therrien has been using Prust between Travis Moen and Rene Bourque while White has been on a line with rookie Brendan Gallagher and Colby Armstrong.
But nothing is set in stone. Therrien has said that he appreciates players who can play more than one position and Prust noted that the depth chart may change when Tomas Plekanec is cleared for duty. Plekanec is listed as day-to-day with sore ribs, a souvenir of his play in the Czech Republic during the lockout.
Prust and White both welcomed the opportunity to play in the middle.
“I played centre my whole life and even my first couple of years as a pro,” said Prust. “It’s been a while but it’s a position I enjoy and I like the responsibility as well.” He took only five draws with the New York Rangers last season and won three of them.
“I’ve always taken pride in winning faceoffs,” said White, who won 29 of 59 faceoffs for a 49.2-per-cent success rate in limited action last season.
White missed the first 53 games last season after undergoing surgery to repair a hernia and he played 20 games before he was sidelined with a concussion.
“It was frustrating to only play 20 games and then have to wait until the lockout was over,” said White. “I spent the first part of the summer resting and then I worked out back home with the (Brandon Wheat Kings) and a Junior A team and even a midget team outside town.”
When asked if he dominated the youngsters, White smiled and replied: “Some of those kids are pretty good.”
The centre position is crowded even after the Canadiens told Scott Gomez to go home Sunday. David Desharnais will start the season between Max Pacioretty and Erik Cole after they led the offence last season.
It’s expected that Plekanec will return to the No. 2 line where Lars Eller has been practicing between rookie Alex Galchenyuk and captain Brian Gionta. When that happens, Therrien will have to find room on the wing for one of his centres.
Eller, who played in Finland during the lockout, had a breakthrough last season with 16 goals and 12 assists but Therrien said Monday that he has been watching the Dane for the past two seasons and “it’s time for him to take the next step.”
When asked whether that meant Eller had to earn a spot on one of the top two lines, Therrien said it was important for players on all four lines to produce.
“I don’t care if you’re on the third or fourth line, you have to score goals once in a while,” he said.
While Plekanec and Petteri Nokelainen continued to skate separately Monday, Therrien said defenceman Mike Commodore has passed his physical and will join the team Tuesday.
And the Canadiens announced a trade involving minor-leaguers with defenceman Jason De Santis coming from the Florida organization in return for defenceman Brendon Nash. The two changed AHL addresses last week with De Santis coming to Hamilton and Nash going to San Antonio but the transfer of their NHL rights was on holding pending the new collective bargaining agreement.
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