It times like these where there should be no questioning the team’s effort, where mental lapses should not occur, and where every check must be finished. It is, in fact, in cases such as these where proud Habs fans such as you and I should be expecting nothing short of our team’s best, because that’s exactly what we will be looking for tonight;the best of the Montreal Canadiens, when they soar out of the tunnel and onto the ice for the 7:30 puck drop.
The Islanders. Okay, so coupled along with a few handfuls of pretty good hockey players so between boasting one of the league’s lousiest sweaters, and being the proud owners of a very cheesy team name, there isn’t a whole lot to get excited about, but this is one team we can not take lightly. However, as long as the boys show up to the rink and display an above average effort, they stand quite a good chance of leaving the building up five points, in stead of just one. This is, after all, a four-point contest, seeing as the eighth place Isles sit three points behind Montreal.
Leading the charge offensively, or at least we hope so, will apparently be Niklas Sundstrom. Our smooth skating Swede has put his best offensive skills forward, registering four points in two games. Sundstrom, one of the Habs most intelligent players, always seems to leave you wanting more out of him on the offensive side of the team. It would be a nice treat to see him turn that fairly large corner. Joining Sundstrom when it comes to mini hot streaks is number one centre, Saku Koivu. With a goal against Pittsburgh, and three points in his last two trips to the arena, don’t be surprised if your Saku senses are again tingling.
Richard Zednik responded well to his brief benching against the Hawks, as he played a pretty darn decent game against Pittsburgh. In fact, it was a rather Zednifying performance, as his two assists on the night upped his point total to 33, despite the fact he hasn’t actually scored a goal in five games. Sliding in just ahead of Zed when it comes to point totals is Sheldon Souray. Big Sheldon, with 34 points this season, is not typically the nicest dude on the ice. Unfortunately for the Isles, Souray will undoubtedly be looking to avenge his game misconduct last game, which saw him miss far more than a good portion of the game.
In goal, Coach Claude will look to his main man in Jose Theodore. If, for any moment you doubted we would see Jose in goal, than I ask you to stand up, walk to the nearest wall, and bang your head repeatedly, because there’s no questioning this decision, especially after Matty Garon looked a little shaky (despite the victory). Garth Snow is expected to counter for the Isles, also it shouldn’t be much of a ‘counter’ on his behalf, unless he has found a way to enlarge his equipment. There are a few Habs, though, who want Snow to be as ‘small’ as he possibly can, namely Joe Juneau and Jan Bulis. While we can all appreciate his contributions, Juneau is pointless in ten games, a mark that could make Darren Langdon look like a superstar. Bulis, for all his hard work and energy, has enough trouble scoring on Rolie Melanson in practice, and with just one point in his past four, let’s hope that our top-line left winger can find a little bit more offensive touch.
For those with a soft-spot for the injured folks, let us spread the word. Craig Rivet is a likely scratch tonight, after he took a Pierre Dagenais bullet off of the foot in practice. Francis Bouillon, who was away from the club to tend to personal matters, is expected to return tonight as the club’s sixth defenceman, a mighty welcome to him. Andreas Dackell, continually bothered by his crazy, wonky knee, is another player who is extremely doubtful. And while Joe Juneau’s worst enemy usually happens to be the man he’s lining up against, today it just may be his back. It seems Joe is always battling some trouble with the back, but this time it may just keep him out of action. It is a doubtful scenario, but if Juneau can’t go, the constantly physical, hard-checking, intensity oozing Chad Kilger (I hope I didn’t jinx him) will take his place.
Projected Habs Lineup
#38 Bulis – #11 Koivu – #73 Ryder
#20 Zednik – #71 Ribeiro – #26 Dagenais
#37 Sundstrom – #90 Juneau – #17 Ward
#22 Begin – #94 Perreault – #15 Langdon
#44 Souray – #5 Quintal
#79 Markov – #8 Komisarek
#51 Bouillon – #43 Brisebois
Scratched: #25 Kilger , #52 Rivet (ankle) , #24 Dackell (knee)