MONTREAL - Two key members of the Montreal Canadiens will be hitting a milestone tonight at home against the visiting Philadelphia Flyers. Tomas Plekanec will play his 600th NHL game - all with the Canadiens - and celebrating with him is Josh Gorges who will play his 400th game as a Canadien.
Plekanec first wore the Habs jersey on New Year's Eve 2003, when he was called up from the Hamilton Bulldogs to play his first NHL game against the Dallas Stars. It wasn't until the 2005-06 season that the Habs third round draft pick from 2001 became a permanent fixture with the club. Despite many trade rumours that surrounded him throughout the years, Plekanec has been able to stay put.
"The Habs management has changed a few times over the years and I'm happy that they all have allowed me to stay with the Canadiens all this time," said Plekanec.
He attributes his longevity with the Canadiens to staying healthy, having good teammates and linemates, as well enjoying the support of his parents. It was a difficult way to end the off-season for Plekanec who lost his father at the end of August. Being an only child, he remained in the Czech Republic a little longer than usual to be with his mother, which is why he missed the Habs' annual golf tournament. Some may argue that Plekanec is one of the most underrated players in the NHL, but the humble Plekanec doesn't think too much into that. "I will let you guys decide that," he added.
Unlike Plekanec, Gorges' time with the Habs didn't get off to the easiest start. "When I first got here I didn't think I would play 50 games with the Canadiens," Gorges said on Saturday morning.
In February of 2007 the Habs acquired Gorges and a first-round pick, which they later used to select Max Pacioretty, after trading Craig Rivet to the San Jose Sharks. That trade is considered to be one of the best moves Bob Gainey made during his time as general manager. At first Gorges had a difficult time establishing himself, playing only seven games that season with the Habs.
"If you have the drive and motivation to accomplish something, that can propel you further ahead," Gorges said on overcoming the adversity when he first came to Montreal. The Kelowna, B.C. native has been happy with the way he has been able to prove his worth to the organization, but knows there's still a lot of work left to do. "You can never be satisfied, there is always another level that could be reached," he said.
Gorges would not comment on which team he thinks benefitted the most from the 2007 trade, but said he is proud to play for the Canadiens. "I always tell people when you play hockey at this level, you have to experience what it is like to play for the Canadiens, there is no better place to be and no better place to play," Gorges said with a proud smile on his face.