TAMPA, Fla. – Cedric Paquette grew up wanting to play for the Montreal Canadiens. Now he wants badly to beat them.
Paquette is set to make his Stanley Cup playoff debut for Tampa Bay in Game 1 of the Lightning’s first-round series with the Canadiens on Wednesday night, and the Gaspe, Que., native sees it as a chance for some payback.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to make them pay,” Paquette said. “They didn’t draft me. I don’t think they show a lot of care to me.”
The Lightning selected Paquette with the 101st pick of the 2012 draft. The Habs had four chances earlier to take him, including seven picks before the six-foot-one centre went off the board.
Montreal used the 94th pick on Brady Vail, who spent this past season with the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires before joining the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs.
Paquette spent the vast majority of the season with the Lightning’s AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. Tampa Bay didn’t call him up until the final two games of the regular season, which was by design.
“He’s somebody that we thought, give him a full stretch, let him play all the minutes possible,” coach Jon Cooper said. “He could be somebody we’ll be able to use at the end of the year, and it’s really played out that way.”
It’s unclear where Paquette will play in the Lightning lineup, which will feature Anders Lindback in place of injured goaltender Ben Bishop. Cooper said “you have to show up tonight to see who plays.”
Barring a last-minute surprise, Paquette is in, living out another step of his NHL dream. It’s just a little different than he envisioned.
“I think every young guy in Quebec just wants to play for Canadiens when they’re young,” Paquette said. “But now I’m just happy that I’m in Tampa. I’m really happy and I just want to win a Cup with them.”
Cooper said Paquette “showed his mettle” in his first two games for the Lightning. That earned him a spot on the playoff roster, but Cooper also joked that this was all too fitting a situation for the 20-year-old.
“We’re playing the Montreal Canadiens and his last name is Paquette,” he said. “That works.”
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