Montreal Canadiens: Camp preview
2008-09 record: 41-30-11, Eastern Conference quarter-finals.
New faces: Mike Cammalleri (F), Hal Gill (D), Brian Gionta (F), Scott Gomez (F), Paul Mara (D), Curtis Sanford (G), Jaroslav Spacek (D).
Camp slogan: Party's over. Back to business.
Some celebration. The Canadiens began last season with visions of a Stanley Cup parade providing the grand finale to their centennial festivities. Instead, the guests made a mess of the place: rumours surfaced of players partying too much, star forward Alex Kovalev was essentially grounded for a couple of road games, and coach Guy Carbonneau got the axe. So instead of sipping champagne in June, the Habs were golfing in April after a humiliating first-round sweep at the hands of Boston.
Instead of sitting around nursing the hangover, GM Bob Gainey embarked on a vigorous remodeling project, kicking Kovalev, captain Saku Koivu, Chris Higgins and Mike Komisarek to the curb and importing pricey forwards Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta and Mike Cammalleri along with defencemen Jaro Spacek, Hal Gil and Paul Mara. They'll be coached by Jacques Martin, who was lured from Florida.
Camp will be all about getting the new guys to jell, and there's already talk of ex-Devils Gomez and Gionta reuniting on a line with Cammalleri. The hopes is that the trio can offset a lack of size with their considerable speed and skill.
Montreal has five home games in the pre-season and also plays in Quebec City on Sept. 20.
Young blood: P.K. Subban
The gritty and gregarious rookie probably isn't ready for the big time, especially with the decent depth on defence in Montreal. Still, Subban could push newcomers Gill and Mara to stay sharp at the back end of the blue-line rotation.
Time to make a move: Kyle Chipchura
Montreal's top pick (18th overall) in the 2004 draft has languished in the minors for much of his career. In 2008-09 he appeared in just 13 games at the NHL level, 23 fewer than the year before. Chipchura's a tough two-way forward, but his future could depend on his showing an ability to generate offence.
X-factor: Matt D'Agostini
The speedy winger showed flashes as a rookie, potting 12 goals in 53 games. But he'll have to battle for ice time with the new, more established forwards.
On the spot: Carey Price
His No. 1 job shouldn't hinge on his play in camp, but the oft-criticized Price must arrive in shape and ready to work. Sure, he just turned 22, but Hab fans don't hesitate to eat their young.