After battling to a 1-1 draw on Friday night in Raleigh, the Habs and Hurricanes will meet again on Saturday in Montreal. With last night’s tie, the CH are now unbeaten in their past four contests (2-0-2), even though they sit at the bottom of the Northeast Division. Jose Theodore will be in net again, even after facing 36 Carolina shots less than 24 hours ago.
Despite being held scoreless last game, Michael Ryder has still been able to post 7 points in his last eight matches. The fearless rookie has been a key contributer to the Habs’ offence on a line with captain Saku Koivu and streaky sniper Richard Zednik. With 13 points thus far, Ryder finds himself in a tie for third in the rookie scoring race. One of the young men he is tied with will be wearing the oppositions’ colours tonight: Eric Staal. The 6’3”, 19-year-old native of Thunder Bay, Ontario has registered just two points in his past nine games, but has still shown glimpses of excellence while centering the ‘Canes third line.
Even as game time draws near, it’s still unclear as to whether or not Claude Julien will dress star defensive prospect Mike Komisarek. The former Michigan Wolverine superstar was a healthy scratch Friday due to Montreal’s abundance of veteran defencemen. One of Craig Rivet, Stephane Quintal, or Francis Bouillon would have to sit out in order for the 6’4″, 240 pound Komisarek to dress, unless Julien has yet another trick up his sleeve. After scratching Mike Ribeiro and sliding Rivet up onto right wing on Tuesday, coach Claude has been as unpredictable as his team’s efforts so far this season. Speaking of Riberio, the Canadiens’ leading scorer did just that, potting his fourth of the year, and first in 20 games, last night. The young pivot will, barring a Julien-esque switch-a-roo, centre the team’s second scoring unit again.
It is, however, unclear who his wingers will be. Pierre Dagenais, despite registering an assist on Ribeiro’s goal, has looked slow and a little bit out of place on a scoring line. With Donald Audette and Jason Ward out for at least another week, the team’s depth on the right side has been weakened, leading many to believe that Dagenais will continue to launch his rocket of a shot from Ribeiro’s wing. Speaking of injuries, after not flying with the team to Carolina, Joe Juneau is still a game time decision for tonight’s game. The Habs’ centreman has been battling an ailing back. In his abscence, Steve Begin has filled in and played extremely well with Andy Dackell and Nik Sundstrom. If Juneau is to return, Julien must think long and hard about removing the hard working Begin from his current spot in the lineup.
Kevyn Adams’ shorthanded goal on Theodore was just his second of the year. Despite being one of the highest shooting teams in the league, the ‘Canes still struggle to score. The team is averaging less than two goals a game this season. One things for sure, though, Carolina’s losing record has nothing to do with their goaltending. Kevin Weekes has been good, if not great, all season but whether or not he will receive back to back starts is still questionable. Though his workload last night was much less than Theodore’s, the Canes athletic keeper may be giving way to his backup, Jamie Storr.
Be sure to tune into RDS or SRC at 7:00 to catch the game. Afterwards, feel free to share your thoughts in the Habsworld Forum.