Tomas Plekanec

Tomas Plekanec’s loaded Czech squad has Canadiens-like pressure to win

For most players who have gone to Europe to play hockey during the lockout, it’s almost like an escape from the pressure of playing in the NHL. For Tomas Plekanec, playing for HC Kladno in the Czech Extraliga it’s eerily similar to playing in Montreal.

Chris Johnston of The Canadian Press hears about how playing with a team with six other NHL stars amps up the pressure at home.

“When you don’t score for two games, it’s in the papers,” said Plekanec. “Every team basically we play against, if they beat us it’s like they won the Olympics or Stanley Cup almost.”

With teammates like team owner Jaromir Jagr, Tomas Kaberle, Jiri Tlusty, and Marek Zidlicky you can understand why Kladno fans would be so intently focused on how the team is doing.

With the team in fifth place right now, you can imagine the press is starting to get a bit grumpy. If things get bad enough maybe he’ll start to miss the Montreal microscope.

Nah…

Don Cherry is big on 2012-13 Canadiens

Andrei Markov
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When this lockout ends, the Montreal Canadiens will be looking to bounce back from their disastrous 2011-12 campaign. They will do so with a new coach and GM in Michel Therrien and Marc Bergevin respectively, but they didn’t make major tweaks to their roster over the summer.

Still, there team could have a very different feel to it if Andrei Markov can stay healthy after playing in just 20 games over the last two seasons.

“He’s the guy, the key,” Don Cherry told the Montreal Gazette. “If you look at when (Chris) Pronger was with Philly, well, Markov is the stud you’ve got to have back there.”

Markov recently made headlines when implied that he might stay in the KHL. He later clarified that his priority is to come back to Montreal after the lockout.

Cherry also thinks highly of Therrien.

“In Pittsburgh, I don’t know what happened,” Cherry said. “I think he got a little carried away with things. But if you look at his earlier coaching there, I think he’s learned a few lessons to take it easy.”

He also thinks what moves the Canadiens did make over the summer, such as the additions of Colby Armstrong and Brandon Prust will provide the team with some much needed muscle.

So perhaps Montreal will bounce back once the lockout ends. Either way, they seem to come with Cherry’s stamp of approval.

Markov clarifies KHL statement: “My priority is to play in the NHL, to come back to Montreal”

Andrei Markov
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Last week, Andrei Markov drew the ire of Canadiens fans when — in an interview with a pair of Sovietsky Sport journalists — he said he wasn’t sure if he’d leave his KHL club, Vityaz Chekhov, to rejoin the NHL once the lockout ends.

This week, he clarified his stance.

“My priority is to play in the NHL, to come back to Montreal,” he told the Montreal Gazette on Thursday. “This isn’t just about me. All players want a fair (CBA) agreement, right?

“If that happens, I’ll be in Montreal.”

The firestorm began when RDS’ Hockey 360 aired a snippet of Markov’s interview with Sovietsky’s Genadi Boguslavsky and Pavel Lysenkov.

From the Gazette:

Markov, playing during the NHL lockout with Vityaz Chekhov of the Kontinental Hockey League, chatted in English with the two writers for the RDS item. Boguslavsky asked the 33-year-old rearguard what he thought of the comments of some KHL players that a few NHLers had considered remaining in the Russian league upon the lockout’s end.

“That’s a difficult question,” Markov replied. “I think every player in the NHL just wants a fair agreement. I can’t say right now if I’m staying or going back in the NHL, but I’ll see when the time comes and then I’m going to make a decision.”

Talk of Russian players sticking in the KHL post-lockout has been prevalent throughout the last 34 days.

Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has already spouted off about the potential of some Russian players remaining in the KHL after the work stoppage ends.

Alex Ovechkin said he’d stay in the KHL if the NHL cut salaries.

Ilya Kovalchuk said he’d be “delighted” to play in the KHL all season. “I really don’t care, the main thing for me is hockey,” he told RIA Novosti.

Most recently, Henrik Zetterberg told MLive.com he knew “for a fact Russians will probably stay” in the KHL post-lockout.

Report: Philly talking Subban trade with Montreal

P.K. Subban
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Some curious news out of Montreal — according to RDS’ Bertrand Raymond, the Canadiens have had discussions with Philadelphia about the availability of P.K. Subban.

Subban, 23, is an RFA that’s spent the entire summer negotiating a new contract. An earlier report from TSN claimed the Canadiens had offered a two-year, $5.5 million deal for the speedy defenseman — one that Subban’s camp rejected — and talk from both sides throughout the offseason has been of the “we’re working on it” and “hopefully something will get done soon” variety.

According to Raymond, that narrative may have changed.

From RDS (translated):

There have been talks with the Philadelphia Flyers about his controversial defender, a thoroughbred that will always be hard to tame and whose attitude could possibly irritate [head coach Michel] Therrien…

…Presumably, the Flyers took the lead in trying to inquire about the status of the Subban. Is it available in the event that the offer is interesting enough [for] Montreal? Who knows how things happened between the two teams? Certainly they have chatted.

It’s not overly surprising Philly would make a play for Subban, especially after submitting a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet to Nashville’s Shea Weber, a deal the Preds eventually matched.

The Flyers need defensemen — they’ll likely start the season  without Chris Pronger (concussion), Andrej Meszaros (Achilles) and Andreas Lilja (hip) — and have been unabashedly bold in their pursuit of talent.

There’s also a sense of immediacy from the organization. As Raymond points out in his piece, Flyers owner Ed Snider is almost 80 years old and his recent investments (paying huge for Ilya Bryzgalov chief among them) suggest he wants a run at the Stanley Cup, and wants it soon.

Montreal re-signs Timmins, hires Audette and Mowers

Donald Audette
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Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin continued to shape his front office on Friday, extending the contract of Trevor Timmins as director of amateur scouting and hiring ex-Hab Donald Audette and former NHLer Mark Mowers as amateur scouts.

“The Montreal Canadiens organization is very proud of the work that Trevor Timmins has done in terms of player scouting and development over his time with the team and we are very happy to count on his services for years to come,” Bergevin told the team website.

“We agree with Trevor and his group on the necessity of adding an amateur scout in Quebec, and we are pleased to welcome Donald Audette, who will now occupy this position for the team.”

Prior to joining the Canadiens, Timmis was a longtime employee of the Ottawa Senators, once serving as their director of player personnel.

Audette spent 15 seasons in the NHL — three with Montreal — playing in 735 career games and notching 509 points.

Mowers was a career journeyman that played 278 games for Nashville, Detroit, Boston and Anaheim. He’s only recently removed from his playing days, however, having spent the 2010-11 season with Fribourg-Gotteron of the Swiss National League.

So, here’s a rundown of all the guys Bergevin has hired/extended this summer in either a coaching, scouting, front office or player personnel role:

Michel Therrien, Gerard Gallant, Clement Jodoin, Martin Lapointe, Patrice Brisebois, Sylvain Lefevbre, J.J. Daineault, Trevor Timmins, Donald Audette, Mark Mowers, Scott Mellanby and Rick Dudley.

Hey, at least he’s keeping the HR department busy.