BROSSARD, Que. â€” Coach Claude Julien felt like he was in training camp with all the new faces at the Montreal Canadiens’ game-day skate on Thursday.
General manager Marc Bergevin had been busy bringing in five new players in the three days leading to the NHL trade deadline on Monday.
Defenceman Jordie Benn, acquired from the Dallas Stars on Monday, had already played in a game, so Julien called in the other four for a brief meeting to set out how and when they will be fit into the lineup.
“We had a good chat,” said Julien. “A lot of it was about integrating them in our team.”
Left-winger Dwight King, acquired from the Los Angeles Kings for a conditional 2018 fourth round draft pick, was to play his first game Thursday night against the visiting Nashville Predators.
Centre Steve Ott, picked up from Detroit for a 2018 sixth rounder, winger Andreas Martinsen, acquired from Colorado for Sven Andrighetto, and defenceman Brandon Davidson, who came from the Edmonton Oilers for centre David Desharnais, will get their chance later.
That many newcomers at once was a surprise to the players who didn’t change teams.
“It was a little different meeting a lot of new guys here today,” said alternate captain Brandan Gallagher. “Jordie Benn just got here but now it feels like he’s been here forever.
“It’s cool to add new guys to the group. We didn’t give up much. We lost a few guys but they’re going to get a good opportunity to perform and you’re happy for them. They did a lot for us.”
That is not to mention defenceman Nikita Nestorov, who arrived Jan. 26 from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Bergevin hoped to get a scoring forward for one of his top two lines but found the asking price too steep from his rival GMs. Instead, he added size and grit to what had been a smaller than average roster.
Julien liked what they got.
“You want speed and you want size and grit,” he said. “Every coach is looking for that perfect team, right?
“It helps us compete against any team. There are some nights where maybe you won’t need as much size and another night you’ll need a lot of size. We’ve got those options now and that’s where I think Bergevin and his crew did a great job of helping this team get better.”
Benn, a left shot who plays on the right side, looked solid in his Canadiens debut, a 1-0 overtime win over Columbus on Tuesday night.
The six-foot-four 232 pound King, a two-time Stanley Cup winner in Los Angeles, likes to charge in on the forecheck and recover pucks.
“He can protect the puck,” said Julien. “He’s a big guy, a guy you need along the boards.”
The 27-year-old King’s size and experience could pose a threat to the playing time of current left wings like the diminutive Paul Byron and rookie Artturi Lehkonen.
The six-foot-three 220 pound Martinsen is another left-winger who plays a similar game.
“I’ve got to bring size and some physicality and some depth to the team,” the 26-year-old Norwegian said. “The next step for me is to come into a really good team and try to fight my way into this lineup. It’ll be a tough job.”
Ott, 34, brings a 58-per-cent faceoff win average to a team that could use help in that area. He also brings plenty of grit to a team that already has seasoned agitators in Gallagher and Andrew Shaw.
“I’m coming in here with a completely open mind,” said Ott, who is on his fifth NHL team. “Wherever they need me.
“I know I’m a depth player later on in my career now. I’m really excited to be part of this group.”
Ott usually wears jersey number 29, which is retired for goaltending great Ken Dryden, so he will wear No. 92.
“I wanted to look like a skill player so I went with 92,” he joked. “Actually, I called my daughter, pulled her out of class for a second to help me pick my number. Obviously, being 29 in a lot of places and Ken Dryden being up in the stands has it so that we went with 92.”
The six-foot-two, 210-pound Davidson is looking for a new start in a season set back by injuries.
“I definitely want to put that behind me,” the 25-year-old said. “Over the last couple of months I think my game has come a long way.
“Contributing to this team is going to be big moving forward. I’m excited. It’s a new chance. I want to establish myself first and foremost to make sure I’m an every day player.”
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press