(Washington, DC) Five years later, it’s starting again for Brandon Gignac. The match routine, the morning training, the team meetings. The usual daily life of a hockey player as he has lived for years, but this time with a trip by plane rather than by bus, in a luxurious hotel rather than an honest establishment on the side of a highway, and in the American capital rather than Rochester.
But above all, in the National League rather than the American League.
Gignac will play the second match of his career on the circuit on Tuesday, his first since March 9, 2019.
“I feel very good, very feverish, and I am excited and I can’t wait to play,” summarized the 26-year-old striker, as he left the Canadian locker room at Capitol One Arena.
Gignac was one of 16 skaters to participate in this optional training which generated an enviable participation rate. He was entitled to a few words from Martin St-Louis, as we often see with newly recalled players. “He was one of my favorite players when I was little. It’s the fun when he comes to talk to you and tells you to play happy, and to play well. It’s a nice little message,” said the man who will wear number 74.
The exercise was followed by a team meeting, then a appearance in front of the cameras, his third in three days because Quebecers inevitably attract a little attention, but above all because his journey is anything but ordinary .
At the end of the phone, Alain Nasreddine exudes happiness. The man who is now an assistant with the Dallas Stars held the same position with the Devils when Gignac played his only game in the NHL.
“No, I didn’t have it easy, so when I see a guy like him come back after a couple of years in the minors, it comes to me like coach and as a former player,” he explained to The Pressearlier this week.
Nasreddine, however, warned us: “He would be the first to tell you that his match was not easy. »And he obviously knows his former protégé!
“It went by very quickly,” remembers Gignac. The march is high in the National League. You can’t make a little turnaround because it ends up in the back of your net. So you keep your game simple and do the little details. »
Within the Devils who were then in disarray, Gignac ended his evening at -2, goals conceded in two appearances in a row, in a 4-2 defeat against the Rangers. On one of the two goals, he attempted a zone exit, stopped at the blue line, and exactly eight seconds later, Libor Hajek scored for the Rangers.
Watch the sequence
That said, Gignac always took pride in refining his defensive game, and was also one of Jean-François Houle’s trusted men in Laval. “I don’t remember any big gaps defensively,” says Nasreddine. He was good on both ends. Some start from afar when they arrive from junior with a certain offensive success. He came with a good sense of the game.
“But it’s extremely hard to shed a label and come back to the NHL. Not everyone can get through this. You arrive, you play your first match, you are the shiny new toyNasreddine image.
“You think you’re going to get another chance next year. Then you end up with an American League contract, you feel far away. It’s so easy to get discouraged, to go play in Europe, where it pays a little more. People may no longer be there to encourage you. You really have to believe in yourself. »
It is in this context that Gignac returns to the NHL. In what role? Impossible to say, Martin St-Louis did not want to reveal anything, not even if he will play shorthanded, one of his specialties. Six of his 37 goals scored with the Rocket since 2021 have been short of a man.
“I am confident, I will play my gameI will show the organization that I am capable of playing,” said Gignac.
— Asked to reveal the changes to its formation compared to the last match, St-Louis cheered up its audience. “Monahan is out ! » The coach then indicated that Arber Xhekaj would take Jordan Harris’ place. Xhekaj’s presence will add weight against a heavy Capitals: four of their forwards weigh 220 lbs or more.
— Nick Suzuki, Juraj Slafkovsky, Cole Caufield and David Savard were the only ones absent from optional training, as was Brendan Gallagher, who will serve the second of his five-game suspension. Suzuki, Slafkovsky and Caufield should also be reunited in the same trio against the Capitals.
— Charlie Lindgren should defend the Capitals’ net, according to colleagues present at their training center Tuesday morning. He will face Samuel Montembeault. Lindgren has won his two starts against his former team thus far, by a combined score of 13-3.