Jose Theodore has been busy of late, and has come up big for the Canadiens on several occasions. The abundance of shots directed towards Theodore is a big concern for coach Claude Julien, and he will be giving his number one netminder a well deserved night off Friday when the Habs travel to Washington to battle the lowly Capitals (RDS, 7:00). Mathieu Garon will make his fifth start of the year for the Habs. Garon, who boasts a 1.97 GAA, hasn’t seen the ice since a November 11th loss to the Blue Jackets. The talented back-up will be making his fifth start of the season for the CH.
Richard Zednik has been on fire for the Habs, notching five goals in his past four games, including a nifty marker in Tuesday night’s 5-2 disaster at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks.
Mike Ribeiro, who will again skate on the Habs second line with Yanic Perreault and likely Niklas Sundstrom, failed to record a point, thus ending his seven game streak. Sundstrom, meanwhile, scored his first goal of the season on a play that saw Darren Langdon contribute his first assist of the year. The crafty Swede has been under scrutiny of late due to his lacklustre play, but he’s too talented to be out of the line-up.
While trade rumors have been speeding towards Jaromir Jagr faster than a Sheldon Souray point shot, perhaps the biggest question between the two clubs is, will Mike Komisarek play? The hulking blueliner was, of course, recalled from the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs on Monday along with the sharpshooting, 6’5″ Pierre Dagenais. Komisarek was in full equipment for Thursday’s practice, which saw Craig Rivet shift over to the left side. Rivet, who usually finds himself on the right half of the rink, has been under constant critisicm for weeks due to his subpar play, but expect to see the veteran in the lineup once again.
If Komisarek is to see the ice on Friday, expect the Habs’ energizer battery, Francis Bouillon to sit the game out. Bouillon wears his heart on his sleeve, so do not rule out the possibility of seeing big Stephane Quintal in the pressbox, either.
It is unknown whether Chad Kilger, who also saw the Vancouver game from the stands, will be in the lineup. He has been inconsistent this season, and is still looking a little out of place after returning from a frightening eye injury at the beginning of the month. For the Capitals, Matt Pettinger, Michael Nylander, and Bates Battaglia are all good bets to miss Friday’s game due to injury. Do not rule out the possibility of a Jagr-less Washington team, too. The Czech superstar injured his groin in the team’s last game, and he may rest it for precautionary reasons. That is bad news for the Caps, as the uber-talented headcase has tallied 15 points in his past 10 games, world-class numbers indeed.
Neither team has been particularily strong, so look for a fairly even matched game. Weak defence has been the story for both clubs. For the Habs, their 28.2 shots against rank them in the bottom half of the league, and Washington at 28.3 is right behind them. The offensively talented Capitals, who are stocked with the likes of Jagr, Peter Bondra, the streaking Robert Lang, and Sergei Gonchar rank seventh in the NHL in terms of Powerplay success. In order to come away successful, they will need to break down a weak Montreal penalty kill, currently situated at 29th in the league with a 77% success rate.