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Roster moves can happen very quickly in the NHL and Tuesday morning provided another example of that.
After taking part in the Canadiens’ optional morning skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard, goalie Cayden Primeau was sitting in the locker-room stall that used to belong to Keith Kinkaid.
The Canadiens called Primeau up from the AHL’s Laval Rocket on Monday and then placed Kinkaid on NHL waivers. Kinkaid cleared waivers at noon Tuesday and will report to the Rocket, while Primeau takes his spot with the Canadiens as the backup to Carey Price.
“I was excited,” Primeau said about getting the call from the Canadiens while he was getting ready to make dinner Sunday night. “There were a lot of emotions, but the biggest one was just excited.”
The 20-year-old had a broad smile while answering questions from the media before serving as Price’s backup Tuesday night against the New York Islanders at the Bell Centre. Primeau is expected to make his NHL debut this week when the Canadiens play back-to-back games against the Colorado Avalanche Thursday night at the Bell Centre and the Rangers Friday night in New York.
“That’s the thing, the next four games we’ve got two back-to-backs after tonight,” coach Claude Julien said Tuesday morning. “So there’s no doubt we’re going to get an opportunity to see him.”
Primeau is likely see action again next week when the Canadiens play back-to-back games against the Penguins Tuesday night in Pittsburgh and the Ottawa Senators Wednesday night at the Bell Centre. After that, Primeau will probably go back to the Rocket, while Kinkaid returns to the Canadiens after hopefully finding his game in the AHL. The Canadiens aren’t going to want Primeau sitting on the bench for long stretches as a full-time backup to Price.
Kinkaid had a 1-1-3 record with a 4.24 goals-against average and an .875 save percentage with the Canadiens.
“I just try to get better every day,” said Primeau, who had a 7-4-1 record with a 2.58 goals-against average and .910 save percentage with the Rocket. “I don’t look too far forward. I’m a big believer if you do the right things, good things will come. So I just try to do that.
“I’m a better goalie than I was yesterday,” the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder added. “I try to take everything with experience. The biggest thing I’ve tried to work on is playing the puck and skating as well.”
The Canadiens chose to call up Primeau instead of Charlie Lindgren, who has a 5-5-2 record with a 2.71 goals-against average and .893 save percentage with the Rocket.
“They’re very similar,” Julien said. “We think Primeau has a great future, but lately they’ve been pretty equal. Primeau overall, I think with the start of the season and where he is right now, had maybe a slight, slight edge. But … we’re going to see what he brings. We have no issues with either one of them and who knows … down the road, you might get to see Lindgren as well. We’re fortunate that we do have some depth in Laval to bring up in the goaltending department.”
After his promotion to the Canadiens, Primeau phoned his father, Keith, who played 15 seasons in the NHL as a centre with the Detroit Red Wings, Hartford Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers.
“I was playing a little joke on him,” Primeau said. “I just told him to follow social media. When he found out, he was excited as well.”
Primeau has progressed quickly since the Canadiens selected him in the seventh round (199th overall) at the 2017 NHL Draft. Last season, he won the Mike Richter Award as the top goalie in the NCAA after posting a 25-10-1 record with Northeastern University, along with a 2.09 goals-against average, a .933 save percentage and four shutouts in 36 games. He said the biggest adjustment from college to pro has been the travelling.
“I’m not making excuses, but I haven’t travelled like that in a while, so just trying to learn stuff like that and how to prepare yourself after getting in late,” Primeau said, adding his sleep schedule has also been an adjustment.
Primeau admitted he didn’t sleep much Monday night.
“It’s exciting and it’s been really fast,” he said about getting called up to the NHL.
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