Canadiens rookie Jesperi Kotkaniemi is getting a roommate — his mother, Kati.
Kotkaniemi’s mother arrived in Montreal Tuesday from Finland and will be moving in with her 18-year-old son, who for now is still staying at a hotel near the Canadiens’ Brossard practice facility.
“I think I’ll try to find some place to live at some point,” Kotkaniemi said after practice Tuesday in Brossard. “But I’m now in the hotel.”
Last season, after defenceman Victor Mete made the Canadiens as a 19-year-old, his mother, Mary, moved to Montreal to live with him. Mete now has his own condo downtown.
Kotkaniemi’s parents, Mikael and Kati, watched him make his NHL debut last Wednesday on TV back home in Pori, Finland, as he picked up an assist in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Maple Leafs in Toronto. There is a seven-hour time difference in Finland, meaning the game started at 2 a.m. Thursday in Pori.
Kotkaniemi was held pointless in Saturday’s 5-1 win over the Penguins in Pittsburgh, but is plus-2 in his first two NHL games while averaging 14:38 of ice time.
“That will be great to finally get my mom here,” Kotkaniemi said. “She will help me a lot every day. This has been my dream and she wants to see that I’m doing well. I think it’s now fun to finally get her here.”
Kotkaniemi said he’s looking forward to having his mother cook for him.
“A lot of pasta,” he said with his big, boyish smile.
Kotkaniemi’s father won’t be able to come to Montreal because of his job as head coach of the Assat Pori team in the Finnish Elite League. Kotkaniemi posted 10-19-29 totals in 57 games playing for his father with Assat Pori last season before the Canadiens selected him third overall at this year’s NHL Draft.
After winning only one of seven faceoffs against the Maple Leafs (14.3 per cent) in his NHL debut, Kotkaniemi won six of nine against the Penguins (66.7 per cent). Kotkaniemi spent a lot of time at the end of practice working on his faceoff skills with the other Canadiens centres and coach Claude Julien was the one dropping the pucks.
When asked what tips his teammates had given him, Kotkaniemi flashed his big smile again and said: “I can’t tell that. That’s secret.”
Price works alone with goalie coach
Carey Price spent most of Tuesday’s practice working alone on the second rink in Brossard with goalie coach Stéphane Waite, who was shooting pucks and helping with his technique.
Asked if this is something we might see more often this season, Price said: “We’ll see. It’s all kind of schedule dependent. I like to do that type of stuff. I do it in the summertime. Obviously, it’s important to see shots from NHL players, but to be able do to that every once in a while is something I think is beneficial.”
Price, coming off the worst season of his NHL career, has a 1-0-1 record with a 1.98 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage after two games this season. The Canadiens are in the middle of a four-day break in the schedule before playing their home opener Thursday night at the Bell Centre against the Los Angeles Kings.
“It’s nice to be able to take a couple of days and just relax,” Price said. “Not relax, but kind of work on the details of your game and work on those little things that you don’t get to work on in a full work day.”
Price, who joined his teammates on the main rink near the end of practice, was wearing new red pads and gloves.
“I just decided to change up the flavour for practice,” he said. “I don’t have any plans on playing with them yet. But who knows?”
With Price spending most of the practice on the second rink, the Canadiens called on former McGill Redmen goalie Karel St-Laurent to join them on the main rink along with Antti Niemi. St-Laurent played last season with the Sorel-Tracy Blackhawks in the LNAH and also filled in as a backup for one game with the AHL’s Laval Rocket.
You can watch a video of Price working with Waite Tuesday on the HI/O Facebook page.
Benn earning his spot
Jordie Benn kept his spot on the third defence pair at practice Tuesday along with Xavier Ouellett, while Karl Alzner remained the seventh defenceman after being a healthy scratch for the first two games of the season.
Benn said he knew he was fighting for a job during training camp.
“Every training camp, everybody’s job is on the line,” Benn said. “There’s only the select few guys, the superstars and the guys that we all know are definitely going to be in there. Training camp’s one of those things. All these kids coming in now can play and they’re challenging for a spot, so you got to take that into account. But at the same time, you just got to do your thing and wherever the cards lay they lay.”
Alzner is in the second season of a five-year, US$23.125-million contract he signed with the Canadiens last summer as a free agent. His $4.625-million salary-cap hit is more than the combined cap hits of Benn ($1.1 million), Juulsen ($863,333), Mete ($748,333), Reilly ($725,000) and Ouellett ($700,000), which add up to $4.136 million.
Alzner is actually earning $6 million this season with the way his contract breaks down, according to CapFriendly.com
Petry is the highest-paid defenceman on the Canadiens with a $5.5 million salary-cap hit. He is in the fourth season of a six-year, US$33-million contract.
Sweet soccer skills
The Canadiens tweeted out a video of centre Matthew Peca showing off his soccer skills before the morning skate Saturday in Pittsburgh.
Surprisingly, Peca never played competitive soccer as a kid.
“It’s just messing around before the games with keep-up soccer,” Peca explained after practice Tuesday. “Hockey teams have done that forever now and it’s something I did in junior, college and here. It’s a good way to warm up and you learn some things over the years from other guys. It’s good to get the legs going.”
Julien, who took a day off from speaking with the media on Tuesday, didn’t make any changes to his lines or defence pairings during practice. Here’s how they looked:
Tatar – Danault – Gallagher
Drouin – Kotkaniemi – Armia
Byron – Domi – Lehkonen
Hudon – Peca – Shaw
De la Rose – Plekanec – Scherbak
Mete – Petry
Reilly – Juulsen
Ouellet – Benn
The Canadiens will practise at 11 a.m. Wednesday in Brossard as they continue preparations for Thursday night’s home opener at the Bell Centre against the Los Angeles Kings (7:30 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio). It will be the first of four straight home games for the Canadiens.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will visit the Bell Centre on Saturday (7 p.m., CITY, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio), followed by the Detroit Red Wings next Monday (7:30 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio) and the St. Louis Blues next Wednesday (7 p.m., SN1, RDS, TSN 690 Radio).