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STU COWAN: Canadiens' Keith Kinkaid getting used to life in Montreal

Backup goalie has moved into a downtown condo with his fitness-model girlfriend, their 5-month-old puppy and the sounds of construction.

Keith Kinkaid got his first taste of what it’s like to play for the Canadiens at the Bell Centre during Sunday afternoon’s annual Red vs. White scrimmage with the arena filled close to capacity.

The Canadiens’ new backup goalie — signed to a one-year, US$1.75-million contract as a free agent this summer — played the second half of the scrimmage, allowing two goals as his Red team beat the White team 5-4 on a shootout goal by Paul Byron. Alex Belzile, Jesperi Kotkaniemi (on a penalty shot), Mike Reilly and Jeff Petry also scored for the Red team, while Max Domi, Josh Brook, Nate Thompson and Jordan Weal scored for the White team.

“It’s definitely fun to play in front of a packed crowd for just the Red vs. White game,” Kinkaid said. “The fans are crazy about their hockey. It’s awesome. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now.”

Kinkaid struggled last season with the New Jersey Devils, posting a 15-18-6 record with a 3.36 goals-against average and a .891 save percentage before being dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 25. He never played a game with the Blue Jackets. The 30-year-old is now looking to regain the form he had the previous season when he was 26-10-3 with a 2.77 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage with the Devils.

After the Farmingville, N.Y., native was traded to Columbus, his girlfriend, Jaclyn Phillips, joined him for the eight-hour drive from New Jersey to provide support. Phillips is from Saint John, N.B., and is now living with him in a downtown Montreal condo. She’s a master fitness trainer, fitness model, online coach, yoga teacher, movement expert and stunt woman who used to also be a bodybuilder. They met last September through a Devils equipment manager, who is from Saint John.

“He hooked us up and the rest is history,” Kinkaid said with a smile. “She definitely helped me out this summer. It’s good to get a plan and stay with it. She likes to take control of her body, too, so it’s definitely been very helpful for me. She’s very lucky because she works out of Toronto and she’s from Saint John, so (Montreal’s) dead in the middle. And she’s Canadian, so it’s good that she’s here because she doesn’t have to worry about the number of days (spent) in the U.S.”

Phillips lived in Montreal for three months once before as part of an exchange, learned to speak some French and is now teaching her boyfriend.

“Yeah, she’s trying to help me,” Kinkaid said. “I keep pronouncing everything wrong. I got bonjour.”

Not long after signing with the Canadiens on July 1, Kinkaid came to Montreal to find a place to live and get settled in with his girlfriend. They now have a new addition to the household — a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy named Guinness. Kinkaid has never had a dog before.

“Oh, man … it’s like a kid,” he said with a laugh. “He’s five months old and doesn’t know how to go to the bathroom outside yet. That and they’re building another building right across from me, so 7 a.m. sharp for some construction.”

Welcome to Montreal — and look out for those orange cones.

“It’s a little dog with long ears,” Kinkaid said about his puppy. “He’s like 15 pounds right now. He doesn’t get much bigger. He doesn’t really want to go for long walks right now, so we’re trying to drag him down the street and we sit on the patio with him. It’s new, so it’s definitely eye-opening and definitely a big responsibility. But he’s awesome. He follows us around everywhere.”

The Canadiens play their first pre-season game Monday against Kinkaid’s old team when the Devils visit the Bell Centre 

Asked if he might make a wrong turn and head to the visitor’s dressing room at the Bell Centre by mistake, Kinkaid smiled and said: “No, I think I turned the page.”

The Canadiens are hoping Kinkaid can help Carey Price a lot more than Antti Niemi did last season as the backup. Coach Claude Julien lost all confidence in Niemi — who finished the season with an 8-6-2 record, a 3.78 goals-against average and a .887 save percentage — and played Price in 28 of 29 games down the stretch before the Canadiens were officially eliminated, missing the playoffs by two points.

Kinkaid has had a chance to get together with Price this summer, calling him “awesome.”

“I’m very easy to get along with and we’ve had some good conversations here and there and I’m excited to work with him,” Kinkaid said.

“Whatever they need me for, I’m here to be a part of the team,” he added. “I just want to be the best I can on and off the ice. Work hard and give this team a chance to make the playoffs.”

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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