Habs tee off towards an optimistic season

The Montreal Canadiens assembled Wednesday for their first team appearance since last spring's playoff exit at the hands of the eventual Stanley Cup champions.

The Habs met the media in advance of their annual golf tournament at at Laval sur-le-Lac Golf Club. The tournament gave media and fans some bits to chew on after an over three month drought. It will have to tie us over until the team reports for physicals on Friday.

The general consensus amongst all the players was putting last season's seven-game defeat to the Boston Bruins behind them and look forward on a new season.

"It's a good sign to see so many guys back and anxious for the year," said Canadiens captain Brian Gionta. "Last year was a disappointment for sure and we'd like to get back. Hopefully we're more consistent and injury-free this season"

"Last year we tried to build on the year before, and we didn't get the result we wanted," said sophomore defenseman P.K. Subban. "Every year this team is competing and we have an opportunity. We've added some depth, some experience and some skill, and that's going to be important for us."

One of those additions, who brings all three traits mention by Subban is Erik Cole, who received his first experience in a team environment as a member of the Canadiens.

"What we're capable of remains to be seen, but it's good to have expectations," said Cole. "It's a great group of guys who have been together a couple of years, with a lot of success, and hopefully I can add to that."

Not all the players hit the links however. Josh Gorges, Lars Eller and Subban took the day to recuperate. Don't let the fact that Subban stayed off the course due to injury be a concern, as it was reported as a minor ailment and the sophomore is expected back for camp on Friday.

Andrei Markov, Andrei Kostitsyn and Tomas Plekanec don't play golf and opted to skip a day of self humiliation fetching their ball out of the rough or bushes.

Markov will also be under close watch through training camp and the pre-season, and is expected, though not guaranteed to be back in time for the season opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was reported this afternoon, by TheTeam990's Tony Marinaro, that the Habs defenseman had to have his knee drained of fluids due to over exertion during rehab.

As for the other mending Habs, Eller feels confident that he will be ready for the season opener and Gorges joked that his teammates noted that he can now walk and skate in a straight line. The defenceman did acknowledge that skating on two good knees for the first time in ages did take time to adjust to. "I can't wait to get out there Saturday and play some real hockey," Gorges said.

Max Pacioretty is also looking forward to the start of camp more than raring to go. "I had so much time to recuperate that all I want is to be back in the game," he said.

Both Kostitsyn and coach Jacques Martin spoke on the former's off season interview where it was worded that Kostitsyn was unhappy with his coach.

"I'm not concerned with that," said Martin. "I'll talk with Andrei, but he's a big part of our success. Because we've added Cole, we have Pacioretty and with Andrei, now we have three power forwards. At times last year, Andrei was maybe one of our better performers. What we want is a more consistent performance."

"I never said anything bad about Jacques and I'm here to have a good season, ready to play," Kostitsyn said. "I'll talk to him about what this Russian newspaper said and I think we'll be good for the season. Jacques is a good coach."

Gionta also spoke on the incident. "Those kind of things happen on sports teams. I'm sure it came out the right way or was translated the correct way," he said. "Andrei fills a great need for us and he's aware of that too and knows his role on the team."

Peter Budaj, who will back up Carey Price this season also had a chance to speak on his roll with the Canadiens. "In my first few years in Colorado, I was a backup goalie," said Budaj. "Carey is a great goalie, and I know this is my role right now, so I know how to prepare for it."

And of course the one player that all eyes will be on this season. Scott Gomez.

The tournament also gave Mike Cammalleri the chance to acknowledge Sidney Crosby's coming forward on head shots.

"I think it's very good of Sid to be able to do that. He's under a big microscope, the biggest in our game, and I commend him for doing that. I think that it's important that we don't be ignorant to what's going on in our game." - Mike Cammalleri on Sidney Crosby

Meanwhile, ex-Hab Benoit Pouliot said a strained relationship between him and his coach led to his departure from Montreal. And yes Benoit, they won the Cup last year...when you were not on the team.

Dave Stubbs on Price and the new Bell Centre glass

Pat Hickey on the Habs young guns and on the need for consistency from AK46

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