The Penguins must be wondering what they have to do to win. They have a great deal of offensive talent, having signed several veterans in the off season [Zigmund Palffy, John Leclair, Sergei Gonchar], and boasting a lineup with returning stars Mario Lemieux, Mark Recchi and top draft pick Sidney Crosby. Yet, this mix of players has not yet jelled into a team, as their 4-7-5 record indicates. This week the Penguins defeated the high flying New York Rangers 3-2, but then were humiliated by the lowly Atlanta Thrashers 5-0 last night. Their fortunes began to improve recently after goaltender Sebastien Caron was given a number of starts in late October. Caron managed a 4-3 record in the last 7 games, before succumbing to a quadricep injury in last night’s loss to Atlanta, 5-0. Defenseman Gonchar is also nursing a groin injury, and his status for tonight’s game is uncertain. Rookie defenseman Ryan Whitney has been a pleasant surprise for Pittsburgh this season. Whitney was called up a few weeks ago and has marked 7 points, all assists in his 5 pro games.
The Habs are riding a 5 game winning streak going into Pittsburgh tonight. Their power play has improved lately, rising to 9th place in the league, with a 20.2% percentage. The special teams will be a factor tonight, as the Penguins are ranked 29% for penalty killing, but 11th in the league with the man advantage. Their recent 3-2 victory over Tampa Bay Tuesday was a combination of luck, pluck and timely goals. These 3 factors have helped the Canadiens come from behind 5 times this season after two periods to win the game.
The Canadiens have juggled their goaltending a little this week, sending fine rookie Yann Danis down to Hamilton to make way for veteran backup Christobal Huet. GM Bob Gainey has indicated that Danis will play a couple of games in the AHL, then be recalled with Huet taking his place, likely in the guise of the typical 2 week conditioning stint to help Huet get back into game shape. Huet began practicing with the team on Wednesday and will back up Jose Theodore for tonight’s game. Radek Bonk has also been cleared to play, and will bump Pierre Dagenais from tonight’s lineup as Dagenais is suffering from the flu and remained in Montreal to rest. Raitis Ivanans has been placed on waivers yesterday, and may be sent down to the farm team if no team claims him by noon today.
Richard Zednik – Saku Koivu – Alexei Kovalev
Chris Higgins – Mike Ribeiro – Michael Ryder
Tomas Plekanec – Radek Bonk – Niklas Sundstrom
Mathieu Dandenault – Steve Begin – Alexander Perezhogin
Sheldon Souray – Mike Komisarek
Andrei Markov – Craig Rivet
Francis Bouillon – Mathieu Dandenault / Mark Streit
Injuries & Scratches: Chrisobal Huet [G, scratch], Raitis Ivanans [LW/RW, fractured orbital], Jan Bulis [LW, shoulder]
Ryan Malone-Mario Lemieux-Mark Recchi
Zigmund Palffy-Sidney Crosby-Erik Christensen
Lasse Pirjeta-Maxime Talbot-Matt Murley
Rico Fata-Sidney Crosby-Konstantin Koltsov
Sergei Gonchar-Brooks Orpik
Josef Melichar-Ric Jackman
Ryan Whitney-Lyle Odelein
Injuries & Scratches: Sebastien Caron, [G, groin, day to day], John Leclair [LW, facial injury]
Starting Goalies: Jose Theodore – Montreal, Jocelyn Thibault – Pittsburgh
Habs Notebook: Who’s hot: Koivu [10 points in last 6 games], Begin [5 points in last 5 ames], Ryder [7 point in last 7 games], Ribeiro [11 points in last 11 games], Kovalev [4 points in last 2 games], Markov [6 points in last 4 games], Dandenault [2 points in last 3 games], Rivet [4 points in last 5 games], Jose Theodore [2.00 GAA, .938 save percentage in last 2 games]….The Canadiens are tied for 10th overall in goals scored with 51 and tied for seventh in goals-against with 41.
Penguins Notes: Who’s hot: Lemieux [12 points in last 7 games], Palffy [16 points in last 14 games], Whitney [6 points in last 4 games] ….This will be Crosby’s first game against the Canadiens, a team he’s rumoured to have cheered for as a youngster. Expect a big game from him, as well as perennial Habs killer Lemieux.
The Week Ahead:
Nov. 12 vs Toronto 7:00 PM
Nov. 15 vs Florida 7:30 PM