How hot is Jose Theodore right now? The star netminder is not only the primary reason the Habs sit in sixth place, four games above .500, but he’s showing no signs of slowing down with a 1.00 GAA and a .958 SV% in his past two games, while allowing just six goals in his past five starts. The same could be said about Stephane Quintal. There are nights when the physical defender is not at his best, but tonight the classy veteran will be welcomed into a very elite class of Montreal Canadiens ; alongside the likes of Jean Beliveau and Bob Gainey, as he plays his 1000th NHL game against the Buffalo Sabres.
Jose and the Habs will be hoping to continue their fine play, and tonight welcome the streaking Sabres, unbeaten in three, into the Bell Centre. You can be sure that Claude Julien’s boys have hopes of grabbing their third win in a row, en route to leaving the rink with their big, shiny 20th victory. With 45 points halfway throught the season, the team has vaulted ahead of the Bruins, Islanders, and Lightning, and are riding high. If you’re one of those statistics-junkies, the team is currently on pace for 90 points, a number that would surely secure a spot in the playoffs.
Let’s gently push aside Theodore for a moment, thank him, and turn to Michael Ryder. Currently leading all rookies in scoring, Ryder continues to write the book on the wristshot. After smoothly notching goals 8 and 9 on Sunday, Ryder is continuing to cement his spot on Saku Koivu’s wing, and keeps us on the edge of our seats wondering just, “what is this crazy kid’s potential!” He seems to surpass every standard ever set for him, something he’s more than welcome to brag about, but probably will never do thanks to his remarkably classy nature regarding everyone he comes into contact with — well, off the ice that is. On the ice, Ryder’s tenacious play and thundering hits are a pleasant treat for every fan in attendance. It won’t be long before we all have to pull out that old TV commercial, you know, ‘I wanna be like Mike!’.
Talented and crafty Swede Nik Sundstrom will miss, in all likelihood, his second straight game due to an abdominal injury. Always reliable, though sometimes draped in an invisibility cloak, Sundstrom’s defensive prowess and penalty killing expertise should be returning to the lineup fairly soon. Another one of the Habs skill players, Andrei Markov, should also miss tonight’s game with a hip injury, one that has kept him out of the lineup since New Year’s Eve, when he played over 20 minutes of the game. With injuries to Sundstrom, Benoit Gratton, and Steve Begin, the consistently inconsistent Chad Kilger should have a spot in the lineup tonight, too, even though Yanic Perreault should be returning to the fourth line after battling a small ankle problem. Perreault’s return means a likely scratching for youngster Tomas Plekanec.
Back to Kilger, who was run through waivers last week, as The Chad played one of his best games of the year on Sunday, primarily as the left-winger on Joe Juneau’s third line. Kilger’s speed and size were used effectively, but it remains to be seen whether the game was just a matter of desparation on big Kilger’s part. He has shown that when at his best, the 6’4 bruiser can do just that, punish opponents with his size, and play a reasonably successful offensive style game.On other nights, though, he looks about as useless as a gigantic rabbit dressed in the CH. His speed, perhaps the best on the team, can be useful on what is for the most part a fairly slow forward group.
Because Kilger has cleared waivers, he is eligible to be sent to Hamilton of the AHL. If he can proove that Sunday’s game was not a one-time thing, and can string together a consistent effort or five, he maybe sticking around. Bob Gainey had the following to say when questioned regarding Kilger, “The minors are an option, but what we want to see is Chad Kilger playing to the best of his ability.” Chad Kilger can be an effective NHLer, but his fate rests entirely in his own hands. Bob Gainey is more than willing to give the 223 pound winger another chance, but time is going fast, especially with the blistering progression of many minor-league prospects.
Game time is 7:30, and if you’re feeling lucky, flip over to RDS and check on how things are going. If you’re without RDS, than the best option for you track your Habs is CJAD-800 ; available both on or offline. As always, head on over to the HW Forum to discuss the game. Also, Happy Birthday to RIchard Zednik. The Habs winger turns 28 today. At what time, we do not know.