The Canadiens boast several rookies in their lineup but all had a taste of the NHL prior to this season. That will change when Andreas Engqvist makes his big league debut on Friday night against the Senators.
Jeff Halpern’s “upper body” injury is being classified as day-to-day. But while his teammates bussed down the 417, he stayed behind, opening the door for the young Swede.
“It’s very exciting. It’s always been a dream to play in the NHL and hopefully I’ll have a chance to do that now,” said Engqvist before the team departed for Ottawa.
He’s the first Swede in the Canadiens lineup since Niklas Sundstrom in 2005-06. At 23, he’s no stranger to the professional game but is new to it on this side of the pond. Engqvist has picked up 14 points in 38 games down in Hamilton and has adjusted well to the smaller ice surface and more physical game.
“It’s going pretty good, I think,” he offered of his first season in North America. “It’s a little different from playing in Europe so it’s taken a while but I feel better and better every day, and now I’m feeling in good shape.”
Engqvist should feel right at home with the Habs, with three recent former Bulldogs on the roster and another, Ryan White, called up Thursday morning. He’ll slot into Halpern’s pivot spot on the fourth line, not unlike his AHL responsibilities.
“He’s a third-line centre who faces the other team’s top line,” explained most recent Bulldog David Desharnais. “He’s good on the penalty kill, wins faceoffs, and is a big guy.”
Halpern’s absence means the Canadiens are without their top guy in faceoff circle. The veteran’s 58.3 percent success rate leads the team and ranks seventh in the league overall. Obviously that level dominance won’t be expected of a first-year North American pro. Nonetheless, the youngster has been working on that part of his game.
“It’s always important for centermen to be good on draws so I’ve been practicing a lot,” Engqvist noted.
White was called up as insurance. Max Pacioretty was on the ice at practice and travelled with the team to Ottawa. He’s expected to be a game-time decision.
While his status is to be determined and Halpern is day-to-day, Michael Cammalleri’s situation is a little, if only slightly, clearer. The sniper was put on injured reserve Thursday, assuring his absence for at least the next week.
His injury is being classified as “upper body,” although speculation is he’s dealing with a separated shoulder. Visibly angry after the hit that led to the injury, Cammalleri declined to comment on it.
Sitting out due to injury is a familiar feeling for the winger. It was almost a year ago that he hurt his knee, sidelining him for nearly two months. And while it might be upper this time around, he plans on using last year’s recovery time to his advantage now.
“Last year when I came back, I felt great and I thought I was playing pretty decent hockey but I didn’t score for like 12 games,” Cammalleri said with a laugh. “I would like to use that experience to try to actually change some things about the way I’ll prepare to come back this time and hopefully not be out as long.”
The Canadiens would certainly welcome that.
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