Steal two points from the Flyers? Check. Lulled to sleep by the most boring team in hockey? Uh, scratch that one. Completely dominate the Toronto Maple Leafs on home ice en route to the victory? To be determined. It’s rivalry reignited tonight in Montreal, where Jose Theodore is expected to be taking on a sober Ed Belfour.
Coming into this week, we all knew what a tough task lay in front of les Canadiens. In many minds, taking four points from the three premier opponents would be considered a success. Well, tonight the CH will look to successfully complete the week against the injury-riddled Leafs. Without the likes of Alex Mogilny, Owen Nolan, Wade Belak, and that man we all love to hate, Darcy Tucker, the Leafs will again look to newly named All-Star Mats Sundin, with 1 point in his past 4 games, to lead the Leafs to their 27th victory. Sundin may get some help, though, as their best defenceman, Ken Klee and forward Robert Reichel could potentially return to the lineup.
Josef Balej should be dressing in his second consecutive game, considering the Habs have been hit with a few injuries, too. Winger Andreas Dackell, who missed yesterday’s dismal contest with a bum knee, is not a lock for tonight, and the same goes for Joe Juneau and Jason Ward. Juneau is currently listing as day-to-day, the reason being his constantly ailing back; while fan favourite Ward has reportedly dislocated his shoulder after taking a hit last night in Jersey, bad news but something that should not see this warrior gone for very long, though he is extremely doubtful for tonight. If the injuries to ‘the defensive specialists’, Juneau and Dackell, are indeed persistant enough to have them in the stands, than Chad Kilger should also dress in place of Juneau. Habsworld will follow the players’ conditions, and will provide updates on tonight’s lineup as soon as the information is known.
Tonight will be a different scenario than usual for the two teams. The past few years have seen the Leafs enjoy plenty of success, while you could say the complete opposite about our beloved CH. This time, however, just seven points separate the two rivals, but tonight there is more hope than usual, as we look to narrow the gap to five.
There is a group of three men, not including the man between the pipes, who will need to elevate their games to an ultimate level tonight for the Habs. While contributions from the likes of Mike Ribeiro, Andrei Markov, Michael Ryder, and Jan Bulis would be of help, this is a game that will rest upon the shoulders of captain Saku Koivu, leading goal scorer Richard Zednik, and blueliner Sheldon Souray.
Koivu, who was not at his best yesterday evening, should follow up that game with one of his best efforts of the year. Zednik, who has had a very streaky season, has ten points in his past ten games, and a goal from him tonight, or even some inspired physical work, would help dearly in order to grab the two points.
Lastly, the contribution of Souray may just be the most important of all. With the likes of big, 6’5 Sundin and the bruising Gary Roberts coming his way, Souray will have to snap, quickly, out of his mini slump and play the way that he can. A little bit of ‘down time’ is fine during an 82-game season, but if he can’t elevate his game against such a key opponent, than he may in some trouble.
The game begins at 7:00, as do all Saturday night showdowns, and will be broadcast on CBC, SRC, and of course, RDS. Anyone looking to further discuss tonight’s game should head on over to Habsworld’s Gamethread.