Montreal Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme confirmed on Friday that Eric Staal would make his team debut Monday night against the Edmonton Oilers after the veteran center joined the club via a March 26 trade from the Buffalo Sabres and completed the mandatory seven-day quarantine.
Per Dan Rosen of the NHL’s official website, it’s expected Staal will center the third line with Jonathan Drouin and Tyler Toffoli and also see time in power-play situations versus Edmonton.
Staal skated with teammates for the first time on Sunday after finishing his required isolation period and repeatedly testing negative for COVID-19. “I had some slight nerves for sure, that’s just the reality of the coming into a new situation, especially midstream, but they were great,” he said of the experience. “Everybody’s been phenomenal. This is an incredible organization and hockey market and I’m just excited to try to integrate and be myself and enjoy the experience. And enjoy the experience but enjoy it in a competitive way and be excited for challenges and opportunities ahead and bring what I can to help. But it’s been nothing but positive so far and hopefully it just continues.”
Ducharme, meanwhile, explained how the staff prepped Staal for his debut. “He participated in our video meetings and in watching our games he could see what we were doing,” Ducharme said. “He also spent some time with Alex Burrows during his quarantine looking at what we want to do. He’ll keep things simple and he’ll adjust in due time. A guy with that kind of experience and intelligence can adjust quickly.”
Montreal begins Monday’s action fourth in the NHL North standings with 41 points, six points ahead of the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames. The top four teams from each division qualify for the playoffs.
Vancouver is currently paused due to a major COVID-19 outbreak.