For many Hab fans, the past few days have been all that is good. Things are going solid. Players are connecting often, pucks are hitting the backs of nets far more often, it seems, than heads are hitting pillows, and Bob Gainey has pulled the trigger on more deals than a Los Angeles drug lord. Not that anyone’s really complaining about lack of sleep, though. As long as the team is winning, than who really cares if you’re waking up the next day, only to find out that lunch time has already passed. Having won six of their last eight games, a feat that included a remarkably comforting five-game win streak, the Habs welcome another late start for many in the Eastern time zone, this time against the beaten and bruised Kings.
Perhaps the Kings would fare better in a wheelchair racing contest at an LA hospital, what with the current abundance of skaters sitting on the sidelines. From Jason Allison to Adam Deadmarsh, to Ziggy Palffy to Aaron Miller, the list of Kings unlikely to play tonight hovers around the double digit mark.
The CH, and Bob Gainey particularily, are looking at their very own group of hurting Habs with a frown. Alexei Kovalev, who’s shoulder injury had worried fans flipping out at the sight of losing their prized acquisition, will indeed be out of action tonight, but do not rule out the possibility of seeing him against Anaheim in the team’s next game. If he does dress for the game versus the Ducks, it will take far more than Charlie Conway and Gordon Bombay to stop him. After all, after playing only 7:00 so far with the club, Kovy will be roaring for some action.
Joining Kovalev, of course, will be Sheldon Souray and Jan Bulis, while Nik Sundstrom is still in Montreal battling an annoying concussion. The only question mark when it comes to the walking wounded is Joe Juneau. Juneau, 36, has a 78-year-old back it seems, but this time it is not his back which could keep him out of action. The defensive-minded centre sat out last night’s game with the flu, and it may play a role in him staying out of the game this evening, too.
One player who helped greatly in offsetting the loss of his teammates was a man who was acquired for peanuts, but will play a big role down the stretch. That man is Jimmy Dowd, and it won’t take long before he is a loveable player in Montreal. If it weren’t for Saku Koivu, Steve Begin and Jason Ward being on the team, you’d be hardpressed trying to find a guy who works harder than #34. He does not look big out on the ice, and he is no Dagenais when it comes to meter sticks and tape measurers, but his heart is big and he’s exactly what you look for when adding a guy to the team. He seems happy to be here, and all signs point to him doing nothing but good for us from here on in.
Speaking of doing some good, how about Andrei Markov. Five points and a +5 rating have seen him become the recipient of plenty of fan support. Some things appears to have kickstarted his heart. Obviously, the addition of Kovalev has made him glow like a happy little boy, but Markov’s play has been improving for a while now. In Sheldon Souray’s abscence, Markov has all but proven to me that when he is on, he is hands down the best defenceman on the club.
This is the only on ice meeting between the two teams this season, a rare occurance but one that could make this game an enjoyable one, as we will not only be treated to our own improving team, but should see some promising young LA talent in action. Youngsters Alex Frolov, Tim Gleason, and Mike Cammellari all have some nice skills, and if given a regular shift will show you that they are in the league to stay.
Those who follow the annual World Junior Hockey Championships should be quite familiar with Cammalleri, as the former Michigan Wolverine once lit it up constantly for Team Canada. Speaking of former Michigan graduates, perhaps Mike Komisarek, who played with the Maize and Blue during the same period of time as Cammalleri will have a few … er … kind words for the man who stands a good six inches smaller than the Habs defenceman. I wouldn’t count on it, though. After all, Komisarek sees ice about as much as some crazy poisonous frog from the Amazon.
With Theodore starting in net last night, look for Mathieu Garon to make his way into the crease tonight. Garon should be well rested, and will be looking to come out sharp, especially after Coach Claude said earlier in the week that his backup will see some ice time on “the weekend”. Expect Cristobal Huet, of France, to start for the Kings. Huet is a solid netminder, one capable of stealing games for his team. Stealing is illegal, but hard work, some thing this depleted LA team is often noted for, is not. That is something the Habs need to remember. We out work them, we will win this game.