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Canadiens Injuries Open Up Possibilities for Juraj Slafkovsky

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Juraj Slafkovsky Montreal Canadiens

MONTREAL —  The Montreal Canadiens’ injury streak is not at risk of ending any time soon.

Captain Nick Suzuki, veteran winger Joel Armia, and training-camp standout Emil Heineman were all sidelined with an upper-body injury earlier in the week.

On Friday morning, the team announced forwards Mike Hoffman and Christian Dvorak would also be kept out of action. The diagnosis’? You guessed it, upper-body injuries.

And while the injuries certainly aren’t cause for celebration, they do present a unique situation for the Canadiens. The logjam among forwards has suddenly dissipated, and along with it, much of the pressure facing the young forwards.

Take Juraj Slafkovsky, for example. While the debate about his NHL-readiness still rages on, the injury situation may very well force the Canadiens to give him an extended regular-season audition.

It’s clear Slafkovsky’s untapped potential will take a few seasons to unlock, but playing alongside NHL-calibre linemates against NHL-calibre competition is the ideal situation in which to evaluate a young player’s current form, especially if the player in question is not relied upon to be a game-breaking presence.

In other words, seeing as he didn’t force anyone out of the roster to earn a job, Slafkovsky could focus on his game without carrying the unreasonable expectations that come with being the first-overall pick.

“There’s always pressure,” said Slafkovsky following the Canadiens’ 4-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night. “But I just try to go out there and play my game.”

With Slafkovsky currently playing his best hockey since the start of development camp, the opportunity to evaluate his progress since the start of development camp couldn’t have come at a better time.

“He’s faced a lot of pressure,” said prospect Owen Beck. “But he’s improving every day and I have no doubt he’ll end up being an excellent NHL player.”

The litany of injuries should also lead to increased ice time for newly-arrived players such as Kirby Dach and Sean Monahan. The pair have looked good in limited preseason usage, but if they’re to turn the page on and reinvigorate their careers, they need opportunities to do so.

By the time many of the injured players are cleared to play, the Montreal Canadiens will have had a perfect opportunity to evaluate young players, an opportunity that would not be available without the unfortunate popularity of the injury list.

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