Montreal Gazette

Refreshed Newhook to return against Stars


The wait is almost over for Alex Newhook. And the most difficult part was the early portion of what he knew would be a long rehabilita­tion process with a new organizati­on.

“The first couple of weeks are tough when you realize you're going to be out for that long,” Newhook said following Friday's practice at the CN Sports Complex in Brossard. “That's the timeline and there's nothing you can really do about it. As much as you're not really around the team, it's an opportunit­y to mentally get a break.

“It's a busy season and a tough schedule. You have that time to refresh. I feel fresh and am excited to play.”

While nothing has been confirmed by head coach Martin St. Louis, who said Newhook is close, the 23-year-old centre is expected to make his much-anticipate­d return to the lineup Saturday afternoon, (1 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN Radio-690, 98.5 FM) when the Canadiens entertain the Dallas Stars. Montreal hosts the St. Louis Blues on Sunday afternoon.

Samuel Montembeau­lt, coming off a 36-save performanc­e last Tuesday when the Canadiens defeated Washington 5-2, is expected to start in net. Montembaul­t won the Molson Cup, which is based on three-star selections, for the month of January. Centre Jake Evans (therapy day) didn't practice.

Newhook, acquired in a trade from Colorado last June for draft picks and prospect Gianni Fairbrothe­r, suffered a high ankle sprain on Nov. 30 against Florida. He departed in the third period after crashing into the net and favouring his left leg, and was expected to miss 10-12 weeks. He had seven goals and 13 points in 23 games at the time of his injury, but had already recorded a pair of two-goal games and had produced points in four of his last seven contests before being sidelined.

During Friday's practice, Newhook replaced Tanner Pearson on the Canadiens' first power-play unit. Pearson was relegated to the second unit.

The Canadiens have loaned forward Lucas Condotta to the Laval Rocket.

“It feels way longer than 10 weeks,” Newhook said. “I wouldn't have rushed back in. I don't think the training staff would let me rush back in with where we're at and what's at stake. I feel good and it's exciting to be back. It's been a long three months, lots of rehab and anticipati­on to get back to this day.”

At the time of his injury, Newhook was playing left wing on a line with captain Nick Suzuki and Brendan Gallagher. But Newhook also found himself in the middle at times with a variety of linemates as St. Louis frequently experiment­ed early in the season in a bid to find winning combinatio­ns. Newhook said he feels comfortabl­e playing anywhere at forward, but now must regain his confidence and find some momentum.

“It's definitely frustratin­g and a little upsetting,” said the 5-foot11, 199-pounder who was selected 16th overall by the Avalanche in 2019. “But after you get through the emotions you realize injuries happen to everyone.”

The Stars (31-14-6) currently sit first in the Central Division and will pose a formidable challenge.

“They're a veteran team that plays the right way,” Montembeau­lt said. “They're really fast and have defencemen who can move the puck and skate very well. They bring a lot of pucks to the net, so I'm going to have to be focused for 60 minutes.”

This marks the sixth time this season Montembeau­lt will start consecutiv­e games as he continues to solidify his position as the first-string netminder.

 ?? ?? Alex Newhook
Alex Newhook

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