Add Marc Savard’s name to the group of men who have injured Saku Koivu. When Savard’s elbow flew wildly into the face of the Habs’ captain during Monday night’s game with the Atlanta Thrashers, Koivu dropped to the ground and would later be diagnosed with a concussion. It is confirmed that Koivu will not be in the lineup tonight. Koivu flew with the team to Dallas, but according to teammate and good friend Craig Rivet, the Canadiens fearless leader did not look good.
In his absence, the Habs have officially recalled 21-year-old centre Tomas Plekanec from the Hamilton Bulldogs. Plekanec, a former 3rd round choice by the Habs, has showed exceptional skill and increased production thus far as one of the Dogs primary offensive weapons. His 27 points sit him second on his team to only Josef Balej, another speedster likely to see action in Montreal soon. The 5’10 Plekanec plays a similar, although less talented and offensive, game to Koivu. An above-average defensive worker, who often combines sensible play in the offensive zone with a bit of hard-nosed fire deep in the corners, ‘Pleks’ will be a player to keep your eye on, should he be rewarded with a spot in the lineup.
Julien is expected to place Yanic Perreault on the first line in Koivu’s abscence, although it is certainly not a spot that Perreault is guaranteed to be holding down. While Koivu will be joined on the sidelines by Benoit Gratton, suffering from a concussion, too, Chad Kilger will return to the lineup it seems, on a line with Jason Ward and Darren Langdon. The trio could perhaps form a very interesting energy line for Coach Julien, and the chemistry between Ward and Kilger has always been evident.
With Koivu out, Richard Zednik and Mike Ribeiro are seemingly the only true offensive threats in the lineup. While Ribeiro’s 26 points give him the team lead, the slick pivot needs to be weary of bigger, stronger, defensively able Stars’ forwards such as Mike Modano, Jere Lehtinen, and Brendan Morrow, all of whom will be looking to shut him down. Ribeiro will need to be up to facing whomever is given the task of shadowing his line , and with only a point in his past three contests, he’ll be working hard to produce some offence.
On a five game unbeaten streak, Dallas is slowly rounding into the mold of a playoff contender. Mike Modano, off to an extremely slow start with an almost dismal 24 points, now has registered seven in as many games. Brendan Morrow is also contributing offensively to the Stars’ attack, with four points in his past four matches.Not good news for the Habs, and more specifically Jose Theodore. Theodore will be in the goal tonight for the Habs, most likely squaring off against a certain Marty Turco that has been on fire. Turco, 28, is 6-1-2 with a 1.20 GAA and a .948 SV% during his nine game hot streak. On the other hand, Theo has been very impressive in his past two starts, allowing just three goals for a 1.49 GAA and a .943 SV%. With the All-Star game getting closer and closer, M. Theodore is making a strong case to be invited.
In other Habs related news, Michael Ryder continues to sit in second place in the rooking point race. In a tie with Boston’s Patrice Bergeron, Ryder’s 7 goals and 14 assists have him just one point back on Trent Hunter, the Islanders sensational forward. Averaging over 15:00 of icetime a game, Ryder has three points in his past four contests. He is one of the many forwards who needs to continue his strong play, and elevate his game to the next level in Koivu’s abscence. It will be interesting to see how the CH can perform without both Koivu and Steve Begin. The pair are usually the most energetic players on the ice, and their physicality usually rubs off on those around them. Jason Ward will need to awake the sleeping giant, Chad Kilger. If both start throwing their bodies around, it will help a large amount in offsetting the Stars’ toughness.
Don’t be fooled when you flip on the TV at 7:30 and see the game hasn’t started. For all of us in the Eastern Time Zone, the game begins at 8:30. Catch the televised game on RDS, or tune into www.cjad.com for the radio broadcast. As usual, you know Habworld is the place to discuss your Habs. Drop by the Forums before, after, or during the game.