The Habs offensive weapons will need to be in full force as they make the necessary preparations needed in order to string together a pair of victories. Joining them for what should not be your typical afternoon cup of tea, the game begins at 2:00, will be the always welcome Boston Bruins.
Led by Joe Thornton’s 45 points and his surprisingly stylish full-cage facemask, the arch rival Bruins have won just once, a 2-1 victory over the Islanders, since they took out the Rangers five games ago. And, for your convenience, I can tell you that specific crushing of the Rangers took place back on January 20th. Statistics of late will tell you that this is not a very hot Boston Bruins hockey club, despite them sitting happily at nine games over .500. The Bruins are unlikely to be helped out on the injury front, either. Travis Green (ribs), Sandy Mccarty (jaw), Michael Grosek (concussion), Ian Moran (ankle), and Jon Girard (hip/pelvis) are all unlikely to dress up, with Moran and Girard being certain scratches.
While the rosters of these two teams are for the most part draped in entirely different players, their respective play of late has been nearly identical. The Habs, just like the pooh bears, are coming off of their first victory after, as you all know, falling drastically apart and coming dangerously close to exploding into oblivion after dropping three in a row.
Jose Theodore gets the start in goal for the Habs after getting a rare night off in Minnesota. Jose has strugged a little bit of late, as you well remember allowing four goals in each of his past two starts. However, his season stats have not plunged a whole lot, currently sitting at the 2.08 in terms of his goals against average, while the save percentage comes into tonight at 9.26. After Mathieu Garon turned in his stellar effort in Minnesota, Jose will look to better his backup, something he will most likely have to do to stop the Bruins’ offence with includes the likes of Thornton, Sergei Samsonov, Brian Rolston, and Glen Murray.
Steve Begin has been practicing with the team over the past few weeks and looks to make a return to the lineup for today’s game , but he will likely be a gametime decision. The physical centreman has been out of the lineup since December 10th. There were certain nights when his abscence was not missed, but on other occasions it was obvious that a thundering hit by the man from Trois-Rivieres could have swayed the momentum in his team’s favour. It’s a shame that we don’t hear more regarding the status of one Benoit Gratton. Gratton, who was called up for a short four game stint from December 20th to 27th, suffered a fairly serious condition and is listed as out indefinitely.
Pierre Dagenais’ two-game suspension has come to an end, Dagenais will rejoin Zednik and Ribeiro on the team’s second scoring line. Moving out of the position will be young Josef Balej. If Begin is to return tonight, and Andreas Dackell (knee) within the next few days, than in all likelihood Balej will find himself rejoining the Hamilton Bulldogs.The Dogs dropped last night’ game 3-2 to the Toronto Roadrunners, while goals came from Jon Ferland and Karl Dykhuis. Balej would join the likes of Chris Higgins, Marcel Hossa, Ron Hainsey, and Tomas Plekanec in terms of receiving limited NHL action this season.
While it is still very likely that Joe Juneau will play, the veteran centreman missed Friday’s practice due to his constantly ailing back. Juneau won’t have is much time as usual to rest that back of his. Unless you’ve been living under a gigantic rock, than you’ll know that is one of two afternoon games this weekend. This game, broadcast at 2:00, will be followed by tomorrow afternoon’s 2:00 start vs. Chicago, which will be broadcast nationally on TSN. Got a Superbowl party to go to? You decide what’s more important, supporting the Habs, or watching a few hundred commercials.
Projected Canadiens Lineup
#38 Jan Bulis – #11 Saku Koivu – #73 Michael Ryder
#20 Richard Zednik – #71 Mike Ribeiro – #26 Pierre Dagenais
#37 Niklas Sundstrom – #90 Joe Juneau – #17 Jason Ward
#94 Yanic Perreault – #22 Steve Begin – #15 Darren Langdon
#44 Sheldon Souray – #5 Stephane Quintal
#79 Andrei Markov – #43 Patrice Brisebois
#51 Francis Bouillon – #52 Craig Rivet
#60 Jose Theodore (start)
#30 Mathieu Garon
Scratched: #8 Mike Komisarek, #76 Josef Balej , #24 Andreas Dackell (knee – day to day), #46 Benoit Gratton (concussion – indefinitely) , Chad Kilger