NEWARK, NJ — Canadians assistant coach Luke Richardson likes to get on the ice early for team practices.
Defenseman Alexander Romanov likes to get on even earlier.
“He’s a great kid, he wants to learn,” Richardson said about the 22-year-old Romanov after the Canadiens practiced Wednesday morning at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard before flying to New Jersey, where they will face the Devils Thursday (7 pm, TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM). “He’s the first guy on the ice every day. I try and get out there early to work with him, but he always beats me out there. He’s the first guy.”
Since the departure of defensemen Ben Chiarot to the Florida Panthers and Brett Kulak to the Edmonton Oilers before last month’s NHL trade deadline, Romanov could be excused if he got on the ice a little bit later for practices since his ice time has increased during games. I have logged a career-high 27:16 of ice time during a 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Center on March 26, five days after the trade deadline.
“He’s got a smile on his face anymore, he loves to play physical, which is great because there’s not a lot of that in the game,” Richardson said about Romanov. “But he can still skate and make subtle little plays. He can shoot the puck. So he’s got all the attributes to keep moving up the ladder and being a solid D-man.
Romanov leads the Canadiens with 204 hits, which ranked him 16th in the NHL through Tuesday’s games. Michael Pezzetta ranks second on the Canadiens with 132 hits.
“He’s got sometimes too big of a gas tank,” Richardson said about Romanov. “He likes to stay out there for a long time. But you love his enthusiasm towards the game and his passion towards it and as long as he keeps moving up the ladder — and I think the mistakes keep minimizing — that’s a good trend to go on for a young defenseman. ”
While Romanov has made great improvements during his second NHL season, Richardson and head coach Martin St. Louis remain reluctant to use him in three-on-three overtime. Romanov has only had 3:09 of ice time in OT all season, which ranks him 15th on the team.
“I think last year, his first year, we only used him once (in overtime) and he got caught out there for a long shift and a goal,” Richardson said. “What we’ve seen, I think his gas tank has gotten bigger this year, he’s gotten stronger. But he plays so physical and he blocks shots and he does a lot of things that drain you, by the third period and the overtime we find his shifts from him have to get a little shorter. He starts to get a little tired and that’s when sometimes he’ll throw a puck away. That’s something you can’t do in overtime.
“So that’s something that’s progressing,” Richardson added. “I think he’s getting stronger and he’s getting smarter with the puck and I think that’s going to lead to opportunities like that. But I think not having those opportunities is because that’s what we’ve seen in the past. He’s gotten really exhausted by the end of the game just because he plays so passionate, plays so physical that it takes a lot out of him. And to make those smart decisions three-on-three or at the end of a game offensively, I think that’s where he was n’t maybe at his best of him and I think he’s getting better at that.
Barron gets first NHL goal
Canadiens defenseman Justin Barron scored his first NHL goal in Tuesday night’s 6-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators and it was a beauty.
Unfortunately, Barron wasn’t available to talk to the media about it after the game because he suffered what appeared to be a leg injury late in the third period and was being treated by the team’s medical staff.
The Canadiens announced after Wednesday’s practice that Barron wouldn’t be joining the team on the two-game road trip to New Jersey and Toronto and neither would forward Paul Byron.
Goalie Carey Price, who has yet to play a game this season after off-season knee surgery, did travel to New Jersey with his teammates on Wednesday afternoon.
Barron spoke with the media on Wednesday morning about his first NHL goal in his fifth game since joining the Canadiens from the Colorado Avalanche in the Artturi Lehkonen trade.
“It was surreal,” Barron said about the goal. “It was pretty cool getting my first goal — a dream come true. And then to hear that cheer from the crowd after, too, was something I’ll definitely remember for the rest of my life.”
Barron played his first two NHL games with Colorado earlier this season but didn’t register a point. The Avalanche selected him in the first round (25th overall) of the 2020 NHL Draft.
Some veteran advice
With three rookie defensemen in the lineup the last two games — Barron, Jordan Harris and Corey Schueneman — Richardson was leaning on the veteran experience of Joel Edmundson and David Savard.
“You don’t want to over-coach them and give them too much,” Richardson said about the young defensemen. “You want to let them play and play to their instincts and their strengths. But I think a guy like Eddie and Savvy really help out in that department. They’re big veteran guys that are calm, but they play aggressive. They can come to the bench and spend time not coaching these guys, just giving them little hints and talking to them and being a good teammate with the experience and I think that goes a long way. They’re the type of personalities that can do that without affecting their game. We’re not asking them to do something that’s going to bother their play. I think that’s been huge for us as coaches.”
Richardson noted that Savard is also very good when it comes to dealing with the on-ice officials, which is something else the young defensemen can learn.
“He’s got some authority with the referees, which is very helpful for what’s turning into maybe a bit of a younger team,” Richardson said about Savard. “We need that. We need to have that communication with the officials out there during the game. Sometimes you can’t get there as a coach on the bench, so we need those guys to do that. And the young guys learn from that. They see that. They see how he reacts — he reacts to them with respect, but authority, and he gets respect back in return. So I think that’s a huge factor for our young guys to see.”
The Canadiens will fly to Toronto after Thursday night’s game and practice there on Friday before facing the Leafs on Saturday (7 pm, CBC, SNE, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio).
The Canadiens will fly back to Montreal after Saturday night’s game and enjoy a day off Sunday before starting a busy stretch of four games in six days.
The Winnipeg Jets will be at the Bell Center next Monday (7 pm, SN, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) and then the Canadiens will travel to Columbus to play the Blue Jackets on Wednesday (7 pm, SN, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM). After that, the Canadiens will return home for back-to-back games at the Bell Center against the New York Islanders on Friday (7 pm, TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) and the Washington Capitals on Saturday (7 pm , CITY, SNE, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).
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