It may have been the strangest two weeks of Michael Ryder’s career.
But it was also one of the most productive seven-game stretches in his nine-year NHL career.
The Montreal forward amassed nine points in the first seven games after he was acquired Feb. 26 from the Dallas Stars for Erik Cole in a swap of right-wingers, with the Canadiens also getting a third round draft pick.
It was the first time the 32-year-old had been traded, and it brought him back to the city where he started his NHL career in 2003.
He was held without a point while playing on hardly any sleep in his first two games, as he had to scramble from Columbus to Toronto for his first game, then flew to Dallas to pick up some clothes before finally landing in Montreal for his second contest.
Then Montreal went on a five-game road trip during which he picked up two goals and seven assists despite being switched from right to left wing halfway through. He also endured a benching during the third period of a 4-2 win in Carolina.
“It’s been a whirlwind, that’s for sure,” Ryder said Wednesday as the Canadiens prepared to face the Ottawa Senators at the Bell Centre. “It’s been a crazy two weeks.
“The travel at first and the no sleep. Just flying around. It was tiring. I tried to catch up on my rest on the road. But it’s just a matter of being more comfortable each game as I went on. It’s been going well and it’s a pretty good fit for me.”
The Bonavista, N.L., native, a right-hand shot, looks to have found a spot on the left side of a top line with centre Tomas Plekanec and right-winger Brian Gionta.
He had played for short stretches on the left earlier in his career, so playing on his off-wing wasn’t totally unfamiliar.
“I don’t mind it,” he said. “Sometimes it’s easier to delay and look for a pass and things like that.
“And you don’t always end up on the left side. Sometimes you move around and I end up on the right.”
Gionta had been struggling to score, but got six goals in the same seven-game span, while Plekanec also picked up his scoring. Curiously, stay at home defenceman Alexei Emelin, who had three points in the first 19 games, had seven points in those seven games.
“I’ve played with Plekanec a bit before,” said Ryder, who spent his first four seasons with Montreal before signing as a free agent in 2008 with Boston, where he won a Stanley Cup in 2011.
“He’s a smart player and to read off him and Gionta is pretty good. I’m playing left wing now and it’s a bit of an adjustment. But playing with those guys, it took a couple of games to adjust and now we have a good feel for each other on the ice.”
He is playing in a spot that had been occupied ably by Rene Bourque for the first 17 games until the veteran sniper suffered a concussion.
Bourque has been skating hard on his own this week and it appears he is not far away from being back in the lineup, although coach Michel Therrien has not set a date for his return.
When he does, Therrien will have to decide who plays on the line.
“I don’t have to make a decision now and that’s a good thing, eh?” Therrien said with a laugh. “Eventually we’ll have to make a decision and we’ll make it.
“Bouque was doing really good with our team. It was a big loss, but Michael Ryder is doing a great job on left wing. I asked him if he was capable of playing left wing and he said ‘yeah.’ He’s done it in the past and it seems to be a good fit.”
Ryder doesn’t know where he’ll end up, but said he is ready to play wherever he can help the team.
He has certainly helped already. Cole was Montreal’s goal-scoring leader last season, but had only three goals and three assists before the trade, so there has been a clear boost in production from that roster spot.
The move also gave general manager Marc Bergevin some room to manoeuvre under the salary cap in the summer as Cole had two years remaining on his contract while Ryder’s deal expires after this season.
That may have been the key to the trade, although the Habs were also seeking help for the power play. Five of Ryder’s nine points in that seven-game stretch were on the man advantage.
It hasn’t all gone smoothly. Ryder has played about 15 minutes per game, but in Carolina his ice time was 8:36 as he sat a spell on the bench.
“That was my first game playing left wing in a long time so it was definitely a little adjustment,” Ryder said. “I’m not sure where (the benching) was from. No one said anything. I just take it for what it is and just go out and play the way I know I can.”