There was a Petteri Nokelainen sighting this morning in Brossard. He was on the ice practicing with the Canadiens for the first time since April first.
You remember Nokelainen don’t you?
To refresh your memory, Pierre Gauthier picked Nokelainen up from Phoenix in October of last season. He played 53 mostly anonymous games for the Habs, scoring three goals and three assists. Along the way he also missed seventeen games because of what was called at the time, an upper body injury.
At the end of the season, he was eligible for unrestricted free agency but new Habs GM Marc Bergevin raised a few eyebrows when he jumped in and signed him to a one-year 575-thousand dollar contract.
Turns out that “upper body” injury was actually a chronic back problem, one that required re-hab that the Canadiens were forbidden to provide during the lockout. So, the season opened without him. And he became, truly the forgotten man.
And why did Bergevin bother to re-sign him? Well, certainly the price was right and he was a decent fourth round centre who had penalty killing skills. He had size and could skate. And last year, at 53 percent, he was the only successful faceoff man on the team and faceoffs, especially in the defensive zone were a problem Bergevin knew he had to address.
So now Nokelainen is practicing with the team for the first time in eleven months. How long before he goes on the roster is anyone’s guess. And one has to ask whether the team has a need for Nokelainen’s limited skill-set any more.
Here is today’s practice lineup – (Bourque & Diaz unavailable-concussions)
Pacioretty – Desharnais – Gallagher;
Prust – Plekanec – Gionta;
Galchenyuk – Eller – Ryder;
Moen – White/Nokelainen – Armstrong
Markov – Emelin;
Bouillon – Gorges;
Kaberle – Subban;
Extra – Weber