Canadiens’ Tom Kostopoulos crashes into goalie Cédrick Desjardins as Marvin Degon slides by Friday. (THE GAZETTE/Phil Carpenter).
**Updated with comments from players**
It’s a beautiful sunny day in mid-September, but the Sportsplexe 4-Glaces in Pierrefonds is packed with hockey fans. That can only mean one thing: Canadiens training camp is under way. And what a start it was, with crunching hits and some excellent performances from prospects and established players.
Here’s some of the highlights from the Canadiens first on-ice session of training camp.
Christopher Higgins is taking part in the drills this morning, but he will not take part in scrimmages for the time being as he continues to heal from shoulder surgery. He has passed all his medical exams, so there is no cause for concern, the Canadiens said. Afterward, Higgins said he was perfectly healthy, but the team’s medical staff has decided to be cautious. However, he could not give a timetable for his return to game action.
In the first scrimmage this morning, Team White won 5-4 in a shootout. Alex Kovalev looked to be in fine form with a goal in regulation and a nifty move in the shootout to beat Loic Lacasse. Matt D’Agostini scored the shootout winner.
After the workouts, Kovalev took time to sign at least six autographs for a young fan with a Kovalev jersey and several cards waiting outside the locker rooms.
11:45 a.m.: The second scrimmage has just ended and Andrei Kostitsyn scored a goal for the Reds and looked like one of the best players on the ice. Defenceman Pavel Valentenko also scored for the Reds and Guillaume Latendresse netted the winner in a 3-2 Reds victory. Maxim Lapierre scored two goals for the Whites in a losing cause, beating Carey Price for one of his tallies.
When speaking with journalists, Kostitsyn said his goal is to make the Canadiens this season, and judging by the first day of camp, his goal should be achieved. He also said he has seen enough of Hamilton and is eager to play in the NHL.
Forward Michael Ryder received a puck in the face, but the Canadiens say he is fine and will be back on the ice on Saturday.
As for injured defenceman Patrice Brisebois, he was behind the bench for one of the teams during the scrimmages, but is able to conduct off-ice workouts and could be skating again within a week.
Mike Komisarek, who has established himself as one of the team’s best defencemen, spoke to the media about the loss of some leaders during the offseason, but he didn’t appear too concerned with the issue. He said it was time for players like himself, Higgins and other youngsters to take on a bigger role with the team and said it doesn’t take a letter on the jersey to make someone a leader.