He could be the most talked about man in Montreal today, and his name is Alexei Kovalev. What’s that, you’ve never heard of him? Should I describe him for you? Well, let’s see; he stands 6’2, and weighs in at 220 pounds; he skates like the wind and shoots like a mad-man, picking corners from all over the ice; a native Russian, he is a two-time All-Star, Olympic medalist, and Stanley Cup champion. Yes, that is Alexei Kovalev. Will you see him on the ice tonight when our Habs tackle the San Jose Sharks? No, no you probably won’t.
Kovalev flew into San Jose this afternoon, and while he is itching to play, his Coach seems to be thinking quite the opposite. Due to playing many games over the past little while, and coupled with the fact that the trip out west will see the Habs battle Phoenix and LA on back to back nights this weekend, Julien would like to rest Kovalev to not only avoid fatigue and injury, but to have him in battle mode. Not that he isn’t always ready to play, though. One analyst in particular, that being Nick Kypreos, had particularily fine words for the Habs newest player, saying today that he, “is a competitor, that he comes to the rink wanting to win, he wants to score and please all of those in the stands.”
If Kovalev doesn’t dress, and as was mentioned, it’s highly unlikely that the super talented sniper will find himself on the ice this evening, than Yanic Perreault should find himself on Koivu’s line, again. And wait, before you press the ‘off’ button on your monitor, run to the kitchen, and grab a suitable barf bag, Perreault has played reasonably well, if not very well, during his brief stint on the top line. The production hasn’t been there, but his effort has matched the number on the back of his jersey, at least 94%, a number which is much more than the face-off king usually brings forth.
Meanwhile, Niklas Sundstrom will take in his second straight game from the sidelines, if he is indeed capable. On the topic of barf bags, Sundstrom has been suffering from concussion syndromes, and to be honest, no one really wants to know what sort of uncomfortable happenings he has been dealing with over the past 48 hours. Perhaps one thing that could cheer up the deft defensive forward would be a win over his former club, that being the Sharks.
On the topic of taking on former clubs, former captain Vincent Damphousse will play host to a few of his old mates. Damphousse, now 36, has put up 30 points so far this season, with nine of those points being goals. He has been a key member of an overachieving, yet reasonably talented Sharks team. In fact, the Sharks, who are currently sixteen(!) games over the .500 mark, are arguably one of the teams that is most underappreciated league wide.
Currently sitting in third in the Western Conference, they are not only led by Damphousse, but by the likes of other veterans Scott Thornton (a former Hab, too), Mike Ricci (who is a scratch due to injury), Mike Rathje, and Alyn McCauley. Cast alongside this group of solid veterans are youngsters such as Jon Cheechoo, the remarkable Patrick Marleau, speedster Marco Sturm, talented youngster Christian Ehrhoff, and stud defender Brad Stuart. Cheechoo, a talented winger from Moose Factory, Ontario, has been red-hot over the past while, posting 10 points in his past 7 contests.
It’s too bad really about Kovalev’s unlikely debut, because this is a guy who could turn tonight’s game into the finest Late Night show around. For your sake, I hope you did your fair share of Habsworld visiting earlier in the evening, because by the time the puck is dropped at 10:30 ET, all of us living in the Eastern time zone may be wondering, just how much Coke DO you need to drink in order to stay up late enough to marvel at the great Nils Ekman?