Fresh off of a relaxing 4-1 smooching of the New York Rangers, Claude Julien and his Habs have made their way back to Montreal in order to take on Martin Havlat, Jason Spezza, and the rest of the explosive Ottawa Senators. Havlat, who picked up a hat-trick in his last contest, will be going head-to-head with Jose Theodore, who showed the previous evening that a rest was just what the doctor ordered.
Rest. however, was not the only thing sitting on Dr. Julien’s prescription list. Hard work has seen the Habs not to have trouble scoring goals the past three games, averaging four a night. Oddly enough, though, the scoring appears to be coming from all sorts of outlets. While the goal production of Michael Ryder and Richard Zednik has stalled, the likes of Pierre Dagenais, Patrice Brisebois, Steve Begin, Francis Bouillon have all risen to the occasion at separate times. Try as they might, though, those four will have one helluva time matching their stuff up against the high-powered juggernaut we call Ottawa.
From A (Alfredsson) to Z (Zdeno), the Sens boast a sickening display of offence, one that could make the hairs on Saku Koivu’s (who, by the way, picked up three points to reach the forty point plateau yesterday) poorly done-up beard stand on ends. Koivu, along with his younger counterpart in Mike Ribeiro, will need to build on their respective multi-point efforts in order to minimize the effect of the Sens powerful performers. With the recent addition of Peter Bondra, the Sens offence becomes even more dangerous.
Speaking of Richard Zednik, who hasn’t scored since mullets were cool (hear that, Mr. Perreault?), the Slovakian sniper played a fair game last night in New York, but whether or not a minor injury is holding him back may be a legitimate question. Zednik will see himself on a new-look line tonight, while still being centered by Saku Koivu.
Bulis, who’s intelligence and speed would have come in very handy against tonight’s opposition, will miss his first game of the season with a lower body injury. Bulis, who was listed as a game-time decision earlier, has size and speed that could have perhaps been compensated for by inserting Chad Kilger into the lineup. Judging by Coach Claude’s decision, though, it seems he still does not feel that The Chad is prepared to play.
Instead, Yanic Perreault will find himself on the number one line tonight, skating with Saku Koivu and Richard Zednik. Perreault, with nine goals on the year, will take the place of Bulis. Bulis will see a speciailst this evening in hopes of learning what exactly is the problem with a leg, though it does not seem serious. Perreault’s shot could proove to be of use, especially if he can plant himself in the slot.
It was thought that Jason Ward would fill the left wing void on the top line, but the sharp-shooting Perreault will find himself there, instead. Perreault has enjoyed a considerable amount of success against the Sens in his career, picking up over a point per game. This move means Kilger will find himself scratched, yet again.
Andrei Markov will remain in Russia, likely until Thursday’s game against the Bruins, where it’s possible he could play. Markov was not given a specific return date by Gainey (a classy move), but should be back, if not Thursday, in time for Saturday’s tilt.
You have to admit, though, for all of the cruel words tossed at Perreault, and fine, he’s been a pretty poor hockey player this season, he hasn’t had anything bad to say (okay, so he’s making a lot of money — he can keep his mouth shut) about his teammates or his boss, despite the fact that he could probably be of help to a team looking for his services. It appears the quiet vet will get a chance to show not only Bob Gainey, but the rest of the NHL, that he can still perform. If he looks sluggish, perhaps Jason Ward will find himself on the top line by the time the game hits crunch time.
Skating hard and taking advantage of a certain Patrick Lalime, low in confidence at this point in time (despite posting some solid numbers recently, he has a swirl of criticism surrounding him from the media), should be key. A wake-up call to Richard Zednik must be placed, but perhaps he will be inspired by his captain’s strong play last night. Regardless, it’s always said that Zed lives for the big games, let’s hope that’s the case tonight. If not, the ‘case’ will not be easily solved, for the Sens will have skated around us so many times that the majority of our boys will have gotten confused and rammed their heads up, well…
Colours show player’s status (hot or cold) offensively.
#94 Perreault – #11 Koivu – #20 Zednik
#26 Dagenais – #71 Ribeiro – #73 Ryder
#37 Sundstrom – #90 Juneau – #24 Dackell
#15 Langdon – #22 Begin – #17 Ward
#51 Bouillon – #43 Brisebois
#52 Rivet – #8 Komisarek
#28 Dykhuis – #5 Quintal