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Alex Tanguay nervous but ready for fresh start with Montreal Canadiens

The Canadian Press
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Montreal Canadiens\' forward Andrei Kostitsyn, left, jokes with Alex Tanguay during training camp in Montreal, on Saturday Sept. 20, 2008. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes Author: The Hockey News

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Alex Tanguay nervous but ready for fresh start with Montreal Canadiens

The Canadian Press
By:

MONTREAL - Alex Tanguay admits to being "a little nervous" about playing for the Montreal Canadiens.

The veteran winger who was acquired in June from the Calgary Flames knows there will be high expectations on himself and the team as the Canadiens, fresh from a first place finish in the NHL Eastern Conference, enter their 100th anniversary season.

"I'm a little nervous, being French Canadian and coming here and knowing about the expectations and stuff like that," Tanguay said Monday before leaving for Halifax to play in the team's pre-season opener against the Boston Bruins.

"But I'm not coming here to be the saviour. The team is excellent. It's got a lot of firepower. They fell short a little last year (in the playoffs) and I'm just hoping to add to that and do my share to help them out."

The Canadiens gave up a first and a second round draft pick for Tanguay plus a fifth rounder before the NHL draft in June - the first of a run of moves that also saw them sign free agents Georges Laraque and Marc Denis and deal for centre Robert Lang.

Tanguay is entering the final year of a three-year contract that will pay him US$5.375 this season, making him one of eight Canadiens veterans eligible to become unrestricted free agents next summer.

There were reports that Montreal was interested in Tanguay last season, when he was the subject of trade rumours while struggling to a season of 18 goals and 58 points, down from 22 goals and 81 points in his first year with the Flames in 2006-07.

Tanguay later said he asked general manager Darryl Sutter to trade him at Christmas.

He wasn't pleased to be put on a checking line with Craig Conroy and Owen Nolan by coach Mike Keenan after spending his first seven NHL seasons on scoring lines.

"We tried to keep it quiet for the remainder of the year," he said. "At the end of the year, I went to Darryl again and thankfully, Darryl agreed.

"We felt it would be better for me and the team if we went our separate ways. I wasn't comfortable with the way I was being used, and with the new economics of the NHL, it didn't make much sense. And I wasn't happy. Hockey's still a game. You have to have fun and I wasn't having fun."

How Montreal will use him remains to be seen, although coach Guy Carbonneau feels he now has enough guns to form three scoring lines.

For now, he doesn't want to touch his best line from last season - Tomas Plekanec between Alex Kovalev and Andrei Kostitsyn - so Tanguay will likely start the campaign playing with either of centres Lang or Saku Koivu.

And although he shoots left and has played mostly left wing in his career, Tanguay has been skating on the right side in camp and will likely play there this season.

"Alex is an offensive player and we hope to find a good combination for him to produce," said Carbonneau. "But I ask all my players to be two-way players.

"I know it will be an adjustment for him. It's a new team, a new town, so in the next two weeks we'll be trying to find who fits with him the best."

For the game in Halifax, Tanguay was to play with rookies Max Pacioretty and Ben Maxwell. Tanguay played his junior hockey for the Halifax Mooseheads, who retired his jersey No. 18 during the 2004-05 season.

Montreal has already retired No. 18 for former defence great Serge Savard, so Tanguay opted for No. 13. He is only the fourth Canadien, and the first since Billy Boucher in 1921-22, to wear the number that some believe is unlucky.

"It hasn't been worn here in a long time, so hopefully it brings me good luck and brings the ghosts from the Forum over to the Bell Centre," he said.

Carbonneau had no objections to having a player wear No. 13, which has become common in the NHL.

Tanguay is from Ste-Justine near Quebec City and grew up as a fan of the Canadiens former arch-rivals, the Quebec Nordiques, who left in 1995 to become the Colorado Avalanche. He broke in with the Avs in 1999-00 and scored the winning goal in the last game of the Stanley Cup final for Colorado the following season. He was traded in June, 2006 to Calgary for Jordan Leopold and some draft picks.

His best season for goals was 29 in 2005-06.

"I know I can produce points, I've done it before," he said. "I'm 28 years old. I'm not past my prime. So we'll see how things go."

The Canadiens play the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night in Roberval, Que.

Denis, who played his junior hockey in nearby Chicoutimi, will start in goal.

Denis was sent to the minors last season by the Tampa Bay Lightning. He is hoping to regain his form with Montreal. And although he is expected to start the season with AHL Hamilton, Denis said he intends to battle for an NHL job.

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Alex Tanguay nervous but ready for fresh start with Montreal Canadiens