Andrew Hammond to make his debut in net for Canadiens against Islanders

Andrew Hammond says he’s ready to play his first regular-season NHL game in nearly two years when the Canadiens meet the New York Islanders on Sunday at UBS Arena (2 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN-690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

“I’m through the roof excited,” said Hammond, who was acquired last week in a trade with the Minnesota Wild.

The 34-year-old Hammond was once a prospect with the Ottawa Senators and earned votes for both the Hart and Vézina trophies as a rookie in 2014-15 when he had a 20-1-2 record with a 1.79 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage.

But the next season was not as productive and, since the Senators traded him to Colorado in 2017, he has played only one regular-season game and three playoff games with the Avalanche in 2018.  He spent last season on Minnesota’s taxi squad and didn’t play a game.

“Last season was difficult at times, but it allowed me to prepare for this moment,” Hammond said. “I know I’ll be ready when I go in the net. With everything that was going on last year, with the pandemic and everything, you never knew when you’d be called up to the regular roster. I learned a lot last year about always being ready to play, and taking advantage of the opportunities that are given to you.”

The Canadiens traded for Hammond after it became obvious Cayden Primeau wasn’t ready for the NHL and they needed a backup to help Sam Montembeault, who will play the second half of a back-to-back set Monday when the Canadiens are home to the Toronto Maple  Leafs.

Coach Martin St. Louis said he was impressed by Hammond’s attitude.

“A player like him, who hasn’t played in the NHL for three or four years, continues to work on his game, with the right attitude,” St. Louis said. “He seems like he likes hockey, and it’s fun to give chances who think that way.”

St. Louis, who picked up his first win in four tries Thursday, said the game is slowing down for him and he feels comfortable in the new role.

“Every time I find myself behind the bench, I have this feeling that I am in the right place,” he said. “All the work that comes with it is difficult, but I appreciate it, and sometimes, even if it’s demanding and exhausting, I tell myself that it’s normal.”

There will be lineup changes Sunday.

St. Louis said defenceman Ben Chiarot is probable after missing several games with a lower-body injury. Chiarot, whose name has been prominently mentioned in trade rumours, practised Saturday in Brossard before boarding the team’s charter flight to  New York.

He’ll replace Corey Schueneman, who has been placed on the COVID-19 protocol list.

Winger Joel Armia was absent from the short training session and remained in Montreal. He was accidentally kicked in the face by St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas on Thursday. Michael Pezzetta will replace Armia in a line with Ryan Poehling and Artturi Lehkonen.

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