Michael Pezzetta making the most of limited ice time with the Canadiens

Despite being a healthy scratch for three weeks and missing eight games, rugged forward is still 13th in the NHL with 185 hits.

Article content

Michael Pezzetta and Jesse Ylönen dress next to each other before every practice at the CN Sports Complex in Brossard.

And for the three weeks before Saturday night — a stretch of eight games — Ylönen was part of the Canadiens’ lineup while Pezzetta was a healthy scratch. The rugged forward somehow avoided going stir crazy, practised hard, hit the gym and kept a positive outlook while remaining the consummate team player.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Article content

Since scoring twice Nov. 16 against Vegas, Ylönen has gone 41 games without a goal.

“Nobody wants to be on a stretch like that,” Pezzetta said Monday after practice. “Ylönen’s a great player. He checks his boxes every day and works as hard as he can. We’ve both been in and out of the lineup and we feel for each other when we’re in that position. It seems like this year it has been one or the other coming in and out. It’s something we’ve been able to communicate about.

“I think he’s a great player. Obviously he has so much skill. Obviously he’s in a bit of a drought right now. That sucks, but it’s not because he’s not working hard.”

Pezzetta, the hard-nosed left-winger, finally dressed Saturday night against Toronto. He received nine shifts and was on the ice for only 6:45, both team lows. Playing on the fourth line with Tanner Pearson and Rafaël Harvey-Pinard, Pezzetta had a team-high eight hits, blocked one shot, had one shot and was a minus-1. It was his first appearance since Feb. 17.

The 6-foot-1, 217-pound Pezzetta doesn’t know whether he’ll dress Tuesday night (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN Radio-690, 98.5 FM), when the Canadiens host Columbus at the Bell Centre, but is growing accustomed to this uncertainty.

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

Cayden Primeau will be the starting goaltender against the Blue Jackets, head coach Martin St. Louis announced. Juraj Slafkovsky (therapy day) didn’t practise on Monday.

“It’s just a part of the business,” explained Pezzetta, who should know more after Tuesday morning’s skate. “I’ve played where you get to the game and you still don’t know, or you’re taking warm-ups and still don’t know. If we don’t have a morning skate we know the night before. I appreciate that. It’s a lot easier going to bed knowing whether you’re playing or not.”

The 25-year-old Toronto native, who last scored Feb. 6 at Washington — a stretch of six games — has three goals and 10 points through 45 games while averaging 7:45 of ice time. It’s the physical aspect of Pezzetta’s game where he makes the most impact and why he remains employed at the NHL level.

He’s 13th overall in the league with 185 hits, and generally delivers a check on each shift. Nashville’s Jeremy Lauzon (315) leads the league, but has played 66 games and is well ahead of Philadelphia’s Garnet Hathaway (247).

“I go out and play hard every night,” Pezzetta explained. “Part of your job on the fourth line is to bring energy and make sure you’re making the game hard for other people. I think I do a good job of that. Showing the coaches I’m reliable all over the ice. Slowly you gain their trust. It’s tough sometimes on the fourth line, when you’re playing eight minutes a game. It’s part of the business. You have to find ways to excel with those minutes.

Advertisement 4

Article content

“It’s all mental,” he added. “When you’re not playing a lot it’s easy to let the game get away from yourself and let your brain wander. For me, it’s staying engaged. Remain vocal on the bench. But it was definitely a long three weeks. Obviously I want to play in the NHL. I want to be in the lineup every night.”

Pezzetta said he and St. Louis discussed his lengthy stretch of inactivity and, of course, those talks will remain private. But Pezzetta admitted St. Louis has been open and honest with him. Eight games not playing was the longest stretch of his NHL career.

Note: Following practice, the Canadiens announced the acquisition of minor-league forward Arnaud Durandeau from New Jersey for forward Nathan Légaré. Durandeau had four goals and 18 points in 38 games with AHL Bridgeport and Utica. The 6-foot, 185-pound left-winger has played four NHL games with the New York Islanders, the team that selected him in the sixth round (165th overall) in 2017. Légaré, a right-winger, had six goals and nine points in 39 games with the Laval Rocket. He was originally drafted by Pittsburgh in the third-round (74th overall) in 2019.

[email protected]


Recommended from Editorial

Advertisement 5

Article content

Article content