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Age: 30

The job: Montreal Canadiens defenceman

The background: He was acquired by the Habs along with Josh DeWolf, who never played a game in the NHL, and a second- round draft pick from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Vladimir Malakhov on Mar. 1, 2001.

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The challenge: To rebound from a poor, post-lockout start to last season and return to the all-star form of 2003-04 when he scored a career-high 15 goals.

Quotable: "I feel like I have something to prove again this year the same way I did when I came back from my injury."

- Souray on his determination to find the all-star form he displayed in 2003-04.


Sheldon Souray has a tattoo on his right arm of a Metis Indian chief in full headdress.

The Montreal Canadiens defenceman was raised on the Metis reserve in Fishing Lake, Alta., and the tat is a reminder of his roots and that he wants to be a positive role model for the kids back home.

There was nothing positive about the first four-plus months of last season, but if he taught one lesson to those kids it was to persevere through the bad times.

Souray arrived at training camp last September feeling pretty good about his game. He was a league all-star in 2003-04, when he scored a career-high 15 goals, two shy of the leauge lead for blueliners.

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His standout play earned him an invite from Hockey Canada to represent the country during the lockout year at the 2005 world championship in Austria and won a silver medal. He was even on Wayne Gretzky's 81-player preliminary list of candidates for the 2006 Canadian Olympic team.

But the good times didn't roll for Souray early on. A few weeks into the season, a messy marital breakup with Angelica Bridges was played out in public.

He carried his personal issues onto the ice and added to his problems was the fact that he also struggled with the new, stringent officiating standards.

And where had Souray's booming shot gone? It turns out that his stick manufacturer lost his pattern. He had to try five different ones before the power and precision of his mighty shot returned.

Finally, there were trade rumours swirling. If former MVP goalie José Theodore could be dealt last season when his performance tailed off, then why not Souray? Man, he was dealing with a full deck of hardship.

"Not much went right, did it?" Souray said.

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"The whole [breakup with his wife]has been exaggerated, that's the disheartening thing. It's tough, but it makes you a better person.

"I learned that in the grand scale of things, hockey is just a small part of my life. I'm very blessed to be doing what I'm doing, but your family is the most important."

When Souray and his wife became estranged, Bridges, an actress and model, took the couple's two-year-old daughter, Valentina, with her to Los Angeles.

Souray was heartbroken and that important muscle only became mended during the Olympic break, when Souray met up with his daughter and Bridges for five days in Mexico. The visit was what the lonely father needed.

He returned to the Canadiens for the stretch run a different player, scoring seven goals and 12 assists in his final 26 games. He also notched three goals and five points in the Canadiens' first-round, six-game loss to the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Carolina Hurricanes.

"I was written off," said the 6-foot-4, 227-pound Souray. "I know what everybody was thinking [that his 2003-04 season]was a fluke."

But the fans and Souray's critics forgot one thing: this was an athlete who needed four surgeries on his wrist before a career-threatening injury was fixed and when he finally healed he enjoyed a breakthrough season.

He desires to turn it around again because Souray, 30, knows that the Habs' success depends a lot on whether he can bounce back for an entire 2006-07 season.

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