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Canadiens Rookies Set To Face Bigger Challenge On Road Trip



Montreal Canadiens defenceman Kaiden Guhle

With five rookies on the roster, the Montreal Canadiens’ first true road trip of the season will go a long way in allowing young players to acclimatize to the realities of playing away from the Bell Centre.

The locker rooms are crowded. The restaurants are unfamiliar.

And while there’s certainly novelty involved in the process, a different bed in a separate hotel room on any given night paired with constant air travel is a recipe for exhaustion.

“The young players will better understand how things run on the road.” said veteran Jonathan Drouin, “That will only help them in the future.”

Of course, Arber Xhekaj, Kaiden Guhle, Juraj Slafkovsky, Jonathan Kovacevic and Jordan Harris have experience playing on the road. Still, they were simply dipping their toes in the icy waters of travel.

Most hockey players will explain it takes a few seasons for their bodies to get used to the grind involved in an 82-game season, but seeing as the Canadiens are icing a young roster will multiple first-year players, it will be almost impossible to avoid putting them in difficult situations.

Consider it a baptism by fire, if you will.

“It’s about finding consistency, regardless of whether you’re on the road or at home,” explained Drouin. “The best teams in the NHL play the same way on the road as they do at home. ”

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Without the advantage of having the last change, players like Jordan Harris and Jonathan Kovacevic, who have put up great numbers in a relatively sheltered role, could be facing a significant increase in the quality of competition.

The same can be said for the team’s best offensive duo, Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, who will surely garner much more attention now that opposing coaches can designate certain players to shadow them.

But despite the added challenges of playing on the road, there are a few silver linings.

Most notably, it gives players a chance to build interpersonal relationships, a crucial step in gaining confidence at the NHL level.

The card game in the airplane does involve money, as well as Brendan Gallagher playing the role of the master of ceremony, but that’s not the only thing on the line.

“Team bonding is always the great thing about the road,” said Jake Evans. “Also just finding our identity. It’s obviously a lot different playing away from the Bell Centre. You don’t have 20 thousand people yelling at you. It’ll be a good opportunity to figure it out and play some really good teams.”

The road trip has coincided with a lineup change, however, according to St-Louis, the roster modifications are based on the Canadiens’ lack of offence rather than fear some lines may be overwhelmed.

“It’s the reality of the NHL,” said St-Louis. “Lines change throughout the season. We scored two goals in three games, so we’re trying something different. As a coach, you’re looking for consistency and production. But it’s very rare that a line stays together from the start to the end of the season. There’s always a little bit of movement.”

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