NHL: Support players will have to give more in the Montreal Canadiens |  RDS

NHL: Support players will have to give more in the Montreal Canadiens | RDS

The Montreal Canadiens traded the final four-game trip to Western Canada and Seattle with a roster of 11 forwards and seven defensemen. Not exactly ideal to be a constant offensive threat in a league as competitive as the NHL.

Fortunately, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Forwards Jonathan Drouin and Mike Hoffman trained with their teammates Thursday at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard.

Drouin and Hoffman, however, wore dark blue jerseys, meaning they couldn’t take hits. Waiting to find out if they will be able to return to training soon, two other players were conspicuous by their absence on Thursday: David Savard and Sean Monahan.

Monahan hasn’t played since Dec. 5, when he scored against the Vancouver Canucks. For his part, Savard has been absent since the Dec. 3 game against the Edmonton Oilers. Head coach Martin St-Louis, however, declined to comment on his condition.

” I have no idea. Today is a day to pick up the pace and recover from jet lag in the West. I’m sure we will have more information tomorrow (Friday)”, he limited himself to saying on this subject. »

As for Drouin and Hoffman, they haven’t played since Nov. 12 against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nov. 19 against the Philadelphia Flyers respectively.

It is in this context that support players such as Jake Evans and Juraj Slafkovsky could be called upon to gain more playing time within the attacking lines. It also looks like he’s in the boxes at St-Louis.

“Due to the circumstances, he (Evans) found himself in a bit more of a defensive role, but we know he has a bit more attacking in his ‘game’. We’ll see what happens (in the next few days),” he said, noting that Evans regularly has scoring opportunities on the fourth line. »

“He could end up around the net a bit more if he played higher up the pecking order,” the former Tampa Bay Lightning star player continued. But Jake can move the puck in the right direction to create an offense. Jake is a steady guy and you always know what you’re going to get out of him. Will he get a bigger attacking role if we lose Monahan for a long time? Maybe, but we will go day by day. »

However, Evans has had his share of problems on offense, registering just four assists in 26 games this season. A performance well below his season of 29 points (13-16) in 72 games in 2021-22, the best of his NHL career. However, the 26-year-old isn’t too worried, thanks in particular to the maturity he’s gained over the years.

“It was frustrating in the first 10 or 12 games of the season,” he admitted. But it’s even worse when you don’t have scoring opportunities. Which is not the case now. I will not change my way of playing defense, cheating for example, to get more points. It wouldn’t work for me, I know. »

“I have to focus on what I can contribute, and right now that’s my job in the face-off circle and on the penalty kick. If I have to block shots, I’ll do it, even if it means I have to let Cole (Caufield ) score the goals”, he added, causing some laughter in the room.

Slavkovsky must adapt to the NHL

On the other hand, Slafkovsky worked with the Canadiens’ director of hockey development, Adam Nicholas, before the start of the training session on certain aspects of his drive with his head held high, to avoid finding himself in a precarious situation. situation.

This initiative is not unrelated to the fact that the Slovak regularly receives heavy checks, in particular the one from Luke Schenn during the last game against the Canucks.

“These are trends that we are trying to correct. It requires practice, discussions, video, and we will continue to do that with it,” St-Louis summed up.

For his part, Evans isn’t overly concerned about the No. 1 pick in the latest NHL draft. After all, he did take some blunt blows in his first few seasons, including that of the Winnipeg Jets’ Mark Scheifele in the playoffs in 2021.

“I think he (Slafkovsky) is starting to adjust to this league, to use his size and speed more effectively,” Evans said. Guys get bigger the higher you go up the hockey ladder. I’m sure where it came from, there was probably less banging. He has to adapt, but he’s big and he’ll find a way to, just as he has for the rest of his game thus far. »

The Canadian will take over on Saturday, when the Los Angeles Kings are the visitors at the Bell Center. The Habs will then try to sign a second consecutive victory.

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