Arnaud Durandeau hopes to end his nomadic ways in Laval

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When a player is traded, he’ll often suggest a change of scenery was exactly what he needed and will speak optimistically about the new chapter in his career.

But it’s not often a player is traded twice within the same season.

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“It hasn’t been easy,” Arnaud Durandeau said this week, one day after he was traded from the New Jersey Devils to the Canadiens for prospect Nathan Légaré. “Of course a change of scenery can be good, but it can also be bad. You never know. Even if it’s not your decision, it’s a risk. You have to take the best out of it, try to create positive energy. Restart in a new spot, show the coach what you have and create a name for yourself in the organization.”

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Durandeau, a 25-year-old forward from Beaconsfield, has struggled this season in the AHL. He was playing for Utica, the Devils’ affiliate, after beginning the year in Bridgeport, the New York Islanders’ farm club. Durandeau, 6-feet and 185 pounds, was selected by the Islanders in the sixth round (165th overall) in 2017 and dressed for four NHL games last season. He failed to register a point and took one minor penalty.

Following Monday’s trade — four days after the Canadiens completed another minor-league deal, acquiring Jacob Perreault from Anaheim for Jan Mysak — Durandeau was assigned to the Laval Rocket. But with the Rocket coming off a two-game sweep last weekend of Cleveland, Durandeau didn’t dress for Wednesday night’s 5-1 victory over Bridgeport at Place Bell, because head coach Jean-François Houle was reluctant to tinker with a winning lineup.

“My conversation with him was just to be patient,” Houle explained. “If there’s injuries or call-ups, he might get a chance. He’s got to be ready. He gets a fresh start here. I liked him in practice (Tuesday). He showed a lot of positive things. It’s going to create some internal competition for certain spots. That’s never a bad thing.”

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Durandeau has some offensive ability, scoring 38 goals in 68 games during his final junior season, at Halifax. And only last season, with the AHL Islanders, he had 24 goals and 55 points in 68 games. But following a slow start — one goal and four points in 12 games — he was traded last November for Tyce Thompson. Durandeau failed to find his game with the Comets, held to three goals and 14 points in 26 games.

“I was in Bridgeport for 4 1/2 years and was very comfortable there,” he said. “In Utica, a new team, it didn’t work out over there. Now I’m here, and that’s what I’m focusing on. Of course it’s not easy. It makes it easier being closer to home.

“Last year I had a scoring touch. Hopefully I can bring that back. I still have it. I’ve just got to find it and shoot more, get my confidence back.”

This is a pivotal season for Durandeau, who is eligible to become a restricted free agent this summer. He’s on a one-year deal worth US$762,500, and is playing for his future. He said he’s trying to block it from his mind.

“We’ve got the end of the season and, hopefully, playoffs,” he said. “Every year is important and, of course, you’re playing for your future, playing for a contract. Hopefully I can have a good end of the season and show teams what I’ve got. If I can stay in Montreal, I’d really like it. If not, hopefully I can show another team I can be a part of their future.”

While the Rocket (26-24-8) is on a three-game winning streak, it still sits sixth in the North Division, one point shy of the final playoff spot, held by Toronto, and the Marlies hold three games in hand. Laval also is only four points behind third-place Rochester.

Brandon Gignac paced the Rocket on Wednesday, with a goal and assist, giving him three goals and nine points in his last three games. Laval again entertains Bridgeport on Friday.

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