Hot off the Canadian federal government’s non-confidence vote Monday night, the Canadiens arrived in Ottawa to take on the league’s best Senators squad Tuesday. The Senators team is one with great numbers going into this game: first place in the eastern conference, tied for first overall, two players tied for first in scoring [Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza], one player second in scoring [Dany Heatley], NHL offensive player of the week [Spezza, 8 points in 3 games], 2nd best home record, 5 game winning streak, 3rd best penalty killing, 6th best power play, best GAA among regular goaltenders [Dominik Hasek]. ‘Nuff said.
The Habs’ challenge should they choose to accept it, is to find a way to slow down the Senators, produce some offence, and out play the opposition. It’s been an eventful past few days for the Canadiens to say the least. Top defenseman Andrei Markov was suspended Monday for shoving an official. At the end of the 4-3 OT loss to Toronto Saturday evening, Markov made contact with an official, who later wrote up a report to the NHL office. Under rule 76-111 any player that makes contact with an official is subject to an automatic three game suspension; however, Markov has the right to appeal to the commissioner’s office within 72 hours of the incident. The Habs may find it difficult to appeal the suspension as some reports indicate there was no video of the incident. [See ***UPDATE*** for more news about Markov’s replacement]
Coach Claude Julien made a lot of line juggling in Saturday’s game in order to kick start the offense. There were some positive results, with the trio of Chris Higgins, Tomas Plekanec & Michael Ryder rising to the second line status. The fourth line of Pierre Dagenais, Mike Ribeiro & Jan Bulis also scored that game, but received significantly similar ice time than the Plekanec line, perhaps in a bid to motivate Ribeiro & Ryder to more production and to take the pressure off of Saku Koivu’s line. Alexander Perezhogin had a reunion with Koivu and Richard Zednik, and profited with a goal. The balance to the scoring was there Saturday night, but the lack of consistent effort along with some terrible officiating left the Habs fortunate to take a point out of the game.
In the first two games the Habs have faced the Senators, they’ve lost 4-2, and 4-3 in a shootout, by a spectacular goal from Spezza. The Habs do have their work cut out for them, as the Senators have yet to lose to an opponent within their own division. The Habs are 6-2-3 on the road this season.
Alexander Perezhogin – Saku Koivu – Richard Zednik
Chris Higgins – Tomas Plekanec – Michael Ryder
Jan Bulis – Radek Bonk – Niklas Sundstrom
Steve Begin – Mike Ribeiro – Pierre Dagenais
Francis Bouillon – Craig Rivet
Mathieu Dandenault – Mike Komisarek [LATE SCRATCH]
Mark Streit – ?
Injuries & Scratches: Christobal Huet [G, healthy], Alexei Kovalev [RW, knee, 4-8 weeks], Andrei Markov [D, 3 game suspension], Sheldon Souray [D, groin injury, day-to-day]
Dany Heatley-Jason Spezza-Daniel Alfredsson
Martin Havlat-Bryan Smolinski-Chris Niel
Peter Schaefer-Mike Fisher-Vaclav Varada
Antoine Vermette-Chris Kelly-Brian McGrattan
Zdeno Chara-Chris Phillips
Brian Pothier-Andrej Meszaros
Christoph Schubert-Anton Volchenkov
Starting Goalies: Montreal-Jose Theodore, Ottawa-Ray Emery
Injuries & Scratches: Dominik Hasek [G, healthy], Patrick Eaves [F, sent to AHL], Wade Redden [D, sprained knee]
Habs Notes: Goalie Christobal Huet was called up from Hamilton on Sunday. Yann Danis was sent down to the AHL to take his place….Sheldon Souray is still day to day with a groin injury and is not expected to play tonight. It’s expected that a player from the Hamilton Bulldogs will be called up to take his place. Possible call ups are Ron Hainsey or JP Cote. ***UPDATE*** Ron Hainsey was claimed by Columbus off of waivers. Mike Komisarek has left the team to travel to his hometown for an emergency family matter, which leaves the Habs at 4 active defensemen. JP Cote is a likely substitute, as he’s a left handed shot and both Souray and Markov shoot from the left side. Other possible callups are defensemen Jeff Paul, Jonathan Aitken or Andrew Archer …Who’s Hot: Michael Ryder [2 G, 2 A, 4 Games], Craig Rivet [3 G, 6 A, 13 Games], Jose Theodore [1 W, 1 T, 2 Games, 2.85 GAA, .920 Sv%]…Who’s Cold: Steve Begin [0 Points, 5 Games, -3], Niklas Sundstrom [0 Points, 5 Games, -4]
Senators Notes: Chris Niel missed games Tuesday through last Saturday due to the tragic loss of his mother in a car accident. Ottawa owner Eugene Melynyk generously offered the use of one of his charter jets to the players so some of Niel’s teammates could attend the funeral service….Dany Heatley is on track to tie an NHL record for points in consecutive games to start the season  set by Wayne Gretzky in 1988-89. Heatley has points in 21 straight games going into tonight’s game against the Habs….Ray Emery, with a win tonight against the Habs, would set an NHL record for consecutive wins to start a career…Spezza talked to the media yesterday of his hopes to be included in Canada’s Olympic team….Who’s Hot: Jason Spezza [3 G, 3 A, 2 Games, +2], Daniel Alfredsson [12 G, 12 A, 11 Games, +13], Andrej Meszaros [3 A, 3 Games, +2]…Who’s Cold: Antoine Vermette [1 A, 4 Games], Martin Havlat [2 A, 6 Games, -1], Anton Volchenkov [0 Points, 9 Games, +2] URLS: