At long last, the Habs return to action. And in case you’ve forgotten who exactly they are or what their goal is, they sit seventh in the Eastern Conference, and enter tonight’s contest with the Florida Panthers at the Office Depot Centre with hopes of increasing their lead on eighth place Long Island, thus further cementing themselves firmly into the playoff picture.
Fresh off of the All-Star festivities in which they were a part of, Sheldon Souray, Mike Ryder, and Jose Theodore will rejoin all of their Montreal teammates, with the exception of Craig Rivet and most likely Andreas Dackell, both of whom couldn’t buy enough time to heal their respective injuries.
While Theodore may have garnered the win at this weekend’s All Star game, who really cares, because it’s quite obvious Jose would trade his All Star victory for two points tonight. Luckily for the Habs and their netminder, the Isles, a team chasing them for the seventh seed, are in tough tonight against the Colorado Avalanche.
And, while it’s important to keep a close eye on those pesky teams behind them in the standings, it is certainly most important for the Habs to be focusing on themselves. It’s quite simple really, as long as they manage to win a little bit more than they lose, we’ll be dancing all the way to the playoffs. Make no mistake, there will be highs and lows from here on in, but the highs should outnumber the lows.
It appears, when one looks at the Panthers filthy long injury list that they are missing beaucoup de key players. ‘So be it’, has been the reply of many donning the Panthers jersey, as in the abscence of Jay Bouwmeester (foot), Viktor Kozlov (thumb), Steve Weiss (knee), and Nathan Horton (shoulder), many Florida players have stepped up their contributions. Olli Jokinen, Mike Van Ryn, and Kristian Huselius all have put up a point-per-game in their past two contests, and all remain constant scoring threats on the ice.
Perhaps, though, the most offence could come from uber-scorer Lyle Odelein. Odelein, who mans the Florida backline in the same way he used to in Montreal, is an offensive machine. Okay, okay, I was only kidding. WIth four points this season, loveable Lyle does not have a scoring bone in his body (perhaps he lost them in a great playoff battle), but let Darren Langdon beware; Odelein will fight if the situation presents itself.
Oh, and before you and all your buddies begin laughing non-stop after dressing up your cuddly little kitty with a Panthers jersey and proclaiming, ‘Hey, look, it’s Juraj Kolnik!’, these guys are not entirely soft, and boast one of the bigger rosters in the league. There are only three skaters (Mike Green, Byron Ritchie, and Kolnik) who fall beneath that magical six- foot mark, and tough guys Eric Beaudoin, Darcy Hordichuk, Pavel Trnka, Kyle Rossiter, and of course Odelein all enjoy a little rumble here and there.
And with that, enjoy the game folks. Hopefully a fourth straight victory is in order for our boys, may the good guys always win. With so many players playing excellent hockey; Koivu, Ribeiro, Ward, and Sundstrom to name a few, let’s hope that a nice break only helps them get better.
38 Bulis – 11 Koivu – 73 Ryder
20 Zednik – 71 Ribeiro – 26 Dagenais
17 Ward – 90 Juneau – 37 Sundstrom
25 Kilger – 22 Begin – 15 Langdon
44 Souray – 5 Quintal
51 Bouillon – 43 Brisebois
79 Markov – 8 Komisarek