Habs' roster spots limited for youngsters
Reway, Thomas and McCarron among those standing out
MONTREAL — Youngsters like Martin Reway, Christian Thomas and Michael McCarron have attracted attention at the Canadiens’ training camp, but don’t expect to see any of them in Montreal when the NHL regular season opens on Oct. 1.
Head coach Michel Therrien made that clear Thursday when he was asked about his strategy of putting together lines for the daily scrimmages, which continue Saturday afternoon at the Bell Centre with a fundraising for the survivors of the Lac-Mégantic explosion.
Training camps traditionally offer coaches an opportunity to experiment by mixing lines, but Therrien has wasted little time putting together veteran trios who are likely to face the Toronto Maple Leafs in the season opener.
“I’m a true believer in combinations that work,” Therrien said Thursday. “There are other little plans (if things don’t work out), but I have this vision and I hope it’s going to work. I might try other things, but what you saw is the vision and we hope it’s going to work.”
That’s one way of saying there aren’t a lot of spots open on the roster. That’s why Therrien plans to make a major cut after exhibition games Sunday against Buffalo and Monday against Boston. Some prospects will be retained so there are bodies available to scrimmage, but the number of healthy bodies will probably drop from 50 to 30.
“After we make those cuts, we’ll concentrate on the main team,” said Therrien.
The one question mark is the right wing position on one of the top lines with Tomas Plekanec and Rene Bourque. Captain Brian Gionta will be the third member of the trio when he’s healthy and Therrien’s vision includes a full recovery from biceps surgery by opening night.
The 21-year-old Thomas has been filling that spot in the scrimmages to date. He received high marks from Therrien as a “kid who knows how to play the game, a kid who goes to the net.” As to whether Thomas will find a job in the NHL, Therrien said: “Time will tell.”
“We got some great prospects,” said Therrien. “The level of competition, the speed and the pressure was greater than yesterday and we saw some of those young guys were able to adjust to that tempo.”
Reway — you pronounce his last name Re-vie — is one of those youngsters. The 18-year-old who holds dual Czech and Slovak citizenship scored the prettiest goal of the day Friday as he helped Team Red defeat Team White 3-1. He beat Carey Price with a backhander to the far post.
He’s another one of those undersized forwards who seem to find their way to the Canadiens’ organization, but Reway has made a rapid adjustment to the North American game. He had 22 goals and 28 assists in 47 games last season with Gatineau in the QMJHL.
“I like to play on the smaller ice and I like playing for (Gatineau coach) Benoit Groulx,” said Reway. “He’s tough, but that’s what I need. I didn’t work very hard (in Slovakia). I didn’t know what backchecking was until I got here.”
Michael Blunden, who will be fighting for one of the final forward spots, and Alex Galchenyuk scored the other goals for the Reds, while Ryan White scored for the Whites.
Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher have been reunited with centre Lars Eller, while the Max Pacioretty-David Desharnais duo has been paired with veteran Daniel Brière.
White returned to the ice 24 hours after Eller’s stick cut him for seven stitches over his right eye.
“It was little scary with all that blood and I wasn’t sure what was happening, but the doctor did a good job of patching me up,” said White. “I think I’m better-looking than I was.”
A close call like that would have some players reaching for a visor, but not White.
“I think I’m safer playing without one,” said White. “I can see better. I saw the stick coming yesterday; I just couldn’t get out of the way.”
There were still tickets available for Saturday’s scrimmage, which will be held at the Bell Centre. For $5 fans can get admission to the scrimmage, a hot dog, a soft drink and chips and all the proceeds will go to Les Fond Avenir Lac-Megantic.
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