jeudi 24 avril 2014

Habs : Playoffs at the Bell Centre ‘like a normal game times 1,000,’ Prust says

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The denial first: Brandon Prust was not at the Montreal poutine restaurant in the pre-dawn of Wednesday, a few hours after the Canadiens had swept the Tampa Bay Lightning from the playoffs.
“Went for some dinner, had some cocktails,” a sleepy Prust said late in the afternoon on Wednesday, having barely stirred from bed the entire day.

I was with those guys earlier, but I’ve wasn’t at the poutine spot. I’ve cut that out of my diet, which was a good decision.”

Those guys would be David Desharnais and Douglas Murray and maybe a few others, teammates photographed at the restaurant counter closer to breakfast hour than dinnertime.

“And I had to come home and kiss MP before she went to work,” Prust added brightly of his girlfriend, Maripier Morin, further strengthening his alibi.

The Canadiens enjoyed the first of two days off following their resounding dispatch of their Eastern Conference quarter-final foe. Prust figures he’ll return to the Brossard training rink Thursday for a little treatment in the clinic and maybe a sauna or dip in the hot tub.

“The next couple of days are about recovering,” he said. “I haven’t gotten out of bed too much, except to grab some food and watch some TV. I’ve slept the day away. No plans. I doubt we’ll move far from the bed today.”

What Prust will be enjoying in the near future is the beating the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings will put on each other for at least two more games, with the winner next up for the Canadiens.
“We’re just watching those teams punish each other and hope that they continue to punish each other more,” he joked, or not. “The rest now will be great for a lot of guys who have bumps and bruises.

“Rest is a positive and it can be a negative — you kind of lose a little momentum and that game-feel if you’re not playing for many days. But it’s our job in the days ahead to make sure we’re really focused in practice.

“During series, practices are 20 minutes, just to get your legs moving. But in the upcoming days we’re going to need to be sharp every day at practice, making sure we’re ready and at tip-top game speed for puck-drop of the next round.

“It’s a huge positive that we get a great rest now. You hope in June that you’re looking back, saying those days off really helped us.

“It’s been a long season, plus exhibitions and training camp, and it’s taken a toll on everyone. (Tuesday) after the game, we were sitting in the dressing room all happy, but you could see the guys were exhausted. Not only do the playoffs take a physical toll, they take an emotional and mental toll, too. You saw a lot of exhausted bodies and exhausted faces (Tuesday) night.

“I’ve got to tell you this — taking our equipment off (Brendan) Gallagher says to me: ‘I wish this were like baseball, where we could just pop champagne and spray each other after every round!’ ”
Like Gallagher, Prust is a skating rainbow, bruise piled atop multi-hued bruise; he has been like this his entire playing career, at every level of the game.

The 30-year-old missed 30 games this past regular season with a shoulder separation and rib issues, sitting the last 12 games of the schedule to prepare for the physical grind of the playoffs.
Like everyone else in the room, his body is held together by head athletic therapist Graham Rynbend, assistant Nick Addey-Jibb, strength and conditioning coach Pierre Allard and a therapy crew that grows during the playoffs. That team is “a blessing” to the players, in Prust’s view and that of every player.

On a line with fellow bulldog Gallagher and centre Tomas Plekanec, Prust had an assist and was plus-1 in the four-game series vs. Tampa, averaging 15:31 on ice.

“They’re very talented players,” he said of his linemates. “As usual, I just try to get the puck to them and clear some room for them.”

And Prust got plenty of dirt under his fingernails, as you’d expect, scrapping with Lightning defenceman Radko Gudas, picking up two minors, dishing out eight hits and blocking two shots.

The impressive sweep of the Lightning was the result of contributions across the board, he said, of everyone buying into and sticking to a game plan the entire series, even if there was the occasional, brief stumble.

As for the magic of the home rink?

“My God, it’s like a normal game at the Bell Centre times 1,000,” Prust said. “It’s like the Bell Centre on steroids. Standing out there for the national anthem, being on the ice here in Montreal, was probably one of the most incredible moments and feelings I’ve ever experienced as a hockey player.

“What happens at the Bell Centre during the playoffs can’t be matched anywhere else in the world.”
Prust will enjoy more of it than he did last season, when the Canadiens were shown the door by Ottawa in a five-game quarter-final. He played Games 1 and 2 in Montreal, but didn’t suit up for the Game 5 finale in Montreal after suffering a separated rib in Game 4 that he pressed back into his rib cage in an arena corridor.

The next day, I reached Prust at a home-furnishing store in Brossard as he waited for his beloved to finish shopping for patio chairs.

“I remember the mental anguish of that being worse than the pain from a separated rib,” he joked.
Overhearing that during our Wednesday chat, and knowing that Prust had just told me, “I’m healthy now, touch wood, everything’s healed up, I’m not playing through anything,” Morin spoke aloud of the couple’s plans for the days leading to Round 2.

“I’m planning to bring him to IKEA this week,” she said triumphantly in the background.

“I don’t think that’s going to happen, that’s just wishful thinking on her part,” Prust replied, laughing.
There is that IKEA ball pit, I suggested, the giant kiddies cube filled with thousands of multicoloured balls.

“Yeah, you’ll find me passed out in there,” Prust said.

It was then that the pleasure of some well-deserved R&R became a deadly serious business.