MONTREAL – For a forward line to work together, Montreal Canadiens centre Scott Gomez says a special kind of communication is needed.
Gomez and fellow newcomer Mike Cammalleri were put together on a line with winger Andrei Kostitsyn at the start of training camp. So far, they’ve had a handful of practices and a pre-season game to build some chemistry.
His take on what’s required is simple.
“Probably the hardest thing is whether you can (swear at) them and then see how they’re going to react, because some guys might take it to heart,” Gomez said this week. “Me and Cammy were taking about that on the bench.
“I know with me and Gio (Bryan Gionta), it’s no holds barred. Me, Bobby Holik and Randy McKay was a pretty good (swear at) line. That’s the first thing you have to realize – what can you say to a guy, what can you get away with. That’s what makes a good line.”
The colourful language must have been flowing freely when both Gomez and Cammalleri scored in their first pre-season game together Thursday night against the Florida Panthers.
And since Kostitsyn assisted on the Cammalleri goal, he may have joined in as well, even if the Belarusian’s English is rudimentary.
“He’s one of those guys who is just quiet,” Gomez said of Kostitsyn. “He does his talking on the ice.
“But actually, getting to know him, he’s a pretty funny guy. You don’t see that on the outside, but he’s a quick-witted guy. But we’re still all three of us getting to know each other.”
It was assumed when Montreal traded with the New York Rangers for Gomez and signed Gionta as a free agent the two would play on the same line. After all, they enjoyed success together with the New Jersey Devils only two seasons ago.
But so far Gionta has played mainly with centre Tomas Plekanec and winger Travis Moen, who joined the Canadiens from Anaheim.
Coach Jacques Martin warns that the lines and defence pairings may all be changed before the regular season starts Oct. 1. But those are the top trios he has in place thus far.
“For a first game it was good,” Martin said of the Gomez line. “They’ve worked together since the start of camp.
“The chemistry is still developing. We’ll see more as camp goes on.”
Some assumed when GM Bob Gainey’s dealing frenzy was over in the summer – 11 players gone, seven new ones in – that Gomez, Gionta and Cammalleri were acquired to be the team’s new scoring line. Trouble is, all three are on the small side, particularly the five-foot-seven Gionta, and it appears Martin wants to split them up, at least while playing at even strength.
So bigger players such as Kostitsyn, Guillaume Latendresse, Matt D’Agostini, youngster Max Pacioretty and Moen, who previously played mainly on checking lines, are all in the mix as candidates for the top two trios.
Latendresse and D’Agostini have thus far played with checking centre Maxim Lapierre. Glen Metropolit should centre the fourth line, with a list of potential wingers that includes Georges Laraque and Greg Stewart. Sergei Kostitsyn may fit in somewhere.
Gomez, wearing No. 91, scored in the first period of his first pre-season game with Montreal.
Cammalleri, sporting No. 13, waited until the second frame, when he took as pass in the slot from Kostitsyn, went down on one knee like scoring ace Brett Hull used to do, and wired a shot past Scott Clemensen.
“Brett Hull was the master at it,” said Cammalleri, a 39-goal scorer last season with Calgary. “I don’t know if I mimicked him, but I just started doing it.
“It allows me to bear down and get leverage on the shot.”
So far, Gomez and Cammalleri like working together. Gomez prefers to pass the puck, while Cammalleri is a shooter, so they ought to get along.
“We both have fun playing the game,” Cammalleri said. “We both like to compete and play a second-effort game where we stay on pucks.
“So maybe there’s a little mutual respect for each other’s game. It takes time. I know everyone wants to make it an overnight story. It’s all about familiarizing ourselves with each another.”
“I like to pass the puck and you can see he knows how to get open,” he sad. “He has a quick release.
“A coupe of times I rushed him, but it’s coming.”