The Montreal Canadiens are in Edmonton tonight to face the Oilers. This is the first game of a two game road trip, and the first visit to Rexall Place arena in nearly 3 years. The last time the two teams met was November 22, 2003, which was a memorable day for a few reasons. The match, won by the Habs 4-3, was deemed the ‘Heritage Classic’, partly due to the fact the game was played outdoors at Commonwealth Stadium to a sell out audience of 57 167 fans. Earlier that same day, a “warm up” game was played between Oilers & Canadiens greats, including Wayne Gretzky, Guy Lafleur, Mark Messier and Larry Robinson; the Oilers Megastars won their match 2-0. Earlier that week, a headline in the Edmonton Journal stated prophetically, “If you build it, they’ll be numb”. Temperatures that day were between -16 & -19 degrees Celsius, with winds around 10 kilometers per hour!
This season the Oilers are a similar position to the Habs in the standings. Both teams are third in their division; both are 7th in their respective conferences. Overall, the Habs are 13th overall in the league, while the Oilers are 14th. The similarities change when the special teams are considered. The Habs are currently at 7th on the power play, a big improvement from the start of the season, yet they are down to 22nd in the penalty killing department. Edmonton is 16th in both the man advantage and disadvantage categories. The Oilers go to guys have been centers Jarret Stoll & Shawn Horcoff, both leading the team with 27 points.
The return to the lineup for Alexei Kovalev will not happen tonight, but it may occur next Tuesday’s match in Montreal versus Ottawa. Kovalev’s surgeon in Pittsburgh, Charles Burke, strongly advised his patient to wait at least to the minimum amount of recuperation time. Alexei is anxious to play soon, but also wants to listen to his physician. Saku Koivu is still suffering from the flu, and he’s joined by Mark Streit. Both players remained in Montreal, to ensure they did not infect their teammates on their western road trip. They may rejoin their team mates for Saturday’s game in Minnesota. Should that occur for Saku, it would mark the first time he’s played against his younger brother Mikko in a professional game. Radek Bonk is still incapacitated by his groin injury.
The Oilers are expected to start netminder Ty Conklin, who returned from a conditioning trip in Hamilton with a 2-1 overtime shootout loss against New Jersey. Conklin played an excellent game in his first pro match since October 21. Hopefully, the Hamilton coaches were able to put together a “book” on Conklin that will be helpful for the Canadiens shooters tonight.
Pierre Dagenais – Mike Ribeiro – Michael Ryder
Richard Zednick – Tomas Plekanec – Alexander Perezhogin
Chris Higgins – Steve Begin – Niklas Sundstrom
Andrei Kostitsyn – Garth Murray – Chris Higgins
Sheldon Souray – Mathieu Dandenault
Andrei Markov – Craig Rivet
Mike Komisarek – Francis Bouillon
Injuries & Scratches: Yann Danis [G, healthy], Alexei Kovalev [RW, knee surgery, Injured Reserve List, possible return in December], Saku Koivu [groin & flu, indefinitely-Injured Reserve List], Radek Bonk [groin, indefinitely], Mark Streit [D, flu, day to day]
Ryan Smyth – Shawn Horcoff – Ales Hemsky
Raffi Torres – Jarret Stoll – Radek Dvorak
Ethan Moreau – Michael Peca – Fernando Pisani
Todd Harvey – Marty Reasoner – George Laraque
Chris Pronger – Marc-Andre Bergeon
Steve Staios – Jason Smith
Cory Cross – Igor Ulanov
Injuries & Scratches: J. J. Hunter [F, shoulder injury, indefinitely-I.R. List], J. Markkanen & M. Morrisson [G, healthy scratch]
Starting Goalies: Montreal, Jose Theodore; Edmonton, Ty Conklin
Habs Notes: Perezhogin was assessed a seldom called penalty on Tuesday night, playing with a broken stick. Perhaps he was unaware that he was ineligible to play with the stick, as he did not appear to try to drop it to the ice to prevent the penalty. Perhaps his lack of English was a slight detriment, but it was a lesson that was well learned and surely will not be repeated….Who’s Hot: Pierre Dagenais [2 G, 2 A, 3 Games], Mike Ribeiro [4 A, 3 Games], Alexander Perezhogin [1 G, 1 A, 2 Games], Michael Ryder [3 G, 1 A, 4 Games], Richard Zednik [1 G, 1 A, 2 Games], Jan Bulis [2 G, 1 A, 3 Games], Tomas Plekanec [1 G, 1 A, 2 Games], Andrei Markov & Sheldon Souray [2 A, 2 Games]
Edmonton Notes: Ty Conklin was the goaltender that faced Theodore in the Heritage Classic game in 2003. Conklin was born and grew up in Alaska, but admitted that playing in the Heritage Classic was colder than what he remembered playing hockey outside as a child…With Conklin’s return, the Oilers have a goaltending controversy brewing with 3 capable players. Rookie Mike Morrison has posted a 1.79 GAA & .927 Save% in an 8 game try out during Conklin’s absence, while incumbent Jussi Markkanen has played 22 games this season…Radek Dvorak returned to the Oilers lineup on Tuesday, after missing 2 games with a groin injury…Who’s Hot: Ethan Moreau [2 G, 2 A, 3 Games], Jarret Stoll [6 G, 7 A, 12 Games]…Who’s Not: Raffi Torres [0 Points, 4 Games], Marty Reasoner [0 Points, 3 Games], Shawn Horcoff [0 Points, 3 Games], Jason Smith [0 Points, 13 Games]