Our Habs will be giving new meaning to the term ‘original six’ on Tuesday as they will welcome to their home the often hated, but always enjoyable Boston Bruins. Don’t be fooled when you flick on the TV tonight and have a hard time recognizing who’s playing. Both squads will be draped in their oldtime jerseys, for tonight is yet another ‘Vintage Night’ at the Bell Centre. Meanwhile, the Canadiens will be looking for a ‘vintage’ outcome, perhaps one similiar to their thrilling playoff victory over the B’s two seasons ago. One things for sure, this is a game that neither team will be happy losing; the team’s are separated by just five points, and a Montreal victory would narrow that gap by two.
Joe Thornton and his Bruins will certainly be looking to rain on the Habs’ parade. In the last meeting between the two clubs, Thornton and company fell to the CH at home. Thornton has never really enjoyed a great deal of success against his division rivals, as the big, burly centreman has recorded 23 points in 30 career games against Montreal. On the other hand, fellow captain and Habs’ first line centre Saku Koivu has been dynamite against the Bruins throughout his tenure in the league, the feisty Finn has 27 points, including 8 goals, in 27 games versus the Bruins.
Another man who knows of great success when the Bruins come to visit, is Jose Theodore. Afterall, it was Theodore who shut them out in their last meeting, and it was #60 again who lead the Habs to their stunning playoff upset in 2001-02. The star netminder has been doing quite alright this season, too. In his past five starts, Theodore is 3-1-1, with a sparkling 1.78 GAA, and an unheard of .948 SV%. His likely counterpart between the pipes, B’s rookie puckstopper Andrew Raycroft, has been just as dominant as Theodore of late. The 23-year-old goalie is 9-5-4 on the season, but has recorded a stunning 1.56 GAA and a fantastic .938 SV% in his past five trips to the crease. If either one of these goalies can continue their hotstreaks tonight, than it is almost a guarantee that their team will go home victorious. Both netminders are more than capable of stealing a game if need be.
Speaking of stealing games, you could argue the Habs did much more than that on Saturday night. Theo faced 37 Tampa Bay shots, and allowed only two goals en route to a 5-2 victory. Luckily for the Habs, John Grahame seemed to take the night off in goal, allowing four goals on the 11 shots he faced. Jose’s stellar performance gave hiim the second star on the night, but it was the bruising Sheldon Souray’s three point night that earned him the first star. Souray’s 8 goals and 8 assists give him 16 points on the year, good enough to tie him for second on the team behind Mike Ribeiro. One of the men he is tied with, Yanic Perreault, enjoyed his first goal, a pair of them in fact, in nine games. Perreault is now a regular on the Habs fourth line, with no promotion really in site. Despite his touch around the goal, there are too many other Habs forwards with more desireable defensive qualities.
One of those players has to be Niklas Sundstrom. After seeing many games from the fourth line, and even some from the stands, ‘Sunny’ is reforming himself into the player that once formed the league’s best third line during his time with the San Jose Sharks. Sundstrom unleashed an unreal shot to score on Saturday night, and coupled with an assist, was one of the better Canadiens in uniform. His four points in his past five games, the 28-year-old Swede has eight points on the campaign. With Jan Bulis no longer a member of the team’s checking line, it appears that Sundstrom has every intention of cementing himself in there as the team’s premier checking line forward. Want evidence? The former first round draft choice’s (8th overall by New York in ’93) game was so impressive that it earned him a total of 18:48 in ice time against Tampa, and his +2 rating moved him into a large tie for second on the team in the plus/minus category. However, Sundstrom is not alone on the checking line. His fellow countryman, Andy Dackell, has been a forechecking beast and has provided strong physical play from the right wing. Along with Joe Juneau, Sundstrom and Dackell will likely be paired against Boston’s top line.
Les Glorieux will be, in all likelihood, welcoming back another tough customer to the team very soon. Winger Jason Ward has been cleared to play, but HW has learned that Ward is heading, on a conditioning stint, to Hamilton. The grinding winger will not have to clear waivers. Hamilton is a familiar place for Jason, as it was just one season ago when he won the award for AHL MVP. When he returns, coach Julien should not have a hard time not re-inserting him into the lineup, possibly and probably with Chad Kilger and either Darren Langdon or Yanic Perreault. Kilger and Ward have proved to be an effective duo, and their willingness to play physical together always brings out the best in big Chad. If all goes as planned and Ward returns, it will probably be Donald Audette who will find himself in the pressbox.
Even with Ward’s return to the ice, there remains a pair of Habs out due to injury. Fireball Steve Begin will be having an MRI Wednesday to determine the extent of some nerve damage in his left shoulder, while Patrice Brisebois’ groin continues to leave him on the sidelines. Listed as day-to-day, Brisebois may not even return before Christmas. For the Bruins, enforcer Sandy McCarty is day-to-day, also with a groin problem. As well, the slick Sergei Samsonov will be one less offensive threat for les Canadiens to worry about. The speedster is out indefintely with a sprained MCL.
The puck is dropped at 7:30, and the game will be, as usual televised on RDS and broadcasted through radio on CJAD-800. Rogers Sportsnet East will also televise the game in english. Be sure to pop by the HW Forum and share thought before, after, or during the game.