Coach Bob Gainey has had the luxury as of late to add and subtract players from the line-up as he sees fit. Forward Jan Bulis has been one of those players. Bulis, who celebrated his 28th birthday last month, is seeking a more offensive role on the team. He currently sits 6th on the team in scoring with 18 goals and 35 points in 66 games this season.
However, it seems he’ll have to make the most of the small opportunities he’s given, as he’s only played three of the Habs 8 games. It doesn’t help that the first game he was scratched, the team began what is now a 7-game winning streak, going into Thursday night’s game against the Ottawa Senators.
After a stellar season in the Czech league during the lock-out, it seemed that this was going to be Bulis’ break-out year. His numbers are nothing to scoff at though. He’s managed to surpass his personal best for goals in a season (16g), and is currently 5 points away from tying his personal best for points in a season set in 2002-2003 (40pts).
Penalties have proved to be a problem for the speedy forward. It was for his lack of discipline that prompted Gainey to bench Bulis 7 games ago. Yet, Bulis was given another chance in Montreal’s 5-3 come-back win over the Boston Bruins. He responded by getting the Habs’ first goal of the game to tie it at 1.
Seeing that Bulis was bumped back into the line-up, it meant that someone was going to have to sit out. Forward Richard Zednik must have drawn the short straw, for it was he who watched the game against Boston from the press box. Zednik has struggled this year and it seems that the veteran may have never recovered from the games he missed early in the season due to an injured groin. He has 14 goals and 28 points in 62 games this season.
Zednik and Bulis have a lot in common. Both are native of sister countries, and both played for their respective country in the Olympics this year. Both were acquired by Montreal in the same trade from Washington in return for Dainius Zubrus and Trevor Linden and a 2nd round pick. (Montreal also received a 1st round pick which they used to draft current Habs’ rookie Alexander Perezhogin).
But most important to each player right now, is that they’re fighting for a regular spot in the Habs line-up. Though, another thing they have in common is that both were expected to produce much more this season. But each have let inconsistancy get the best of them this season, and are in danger of no longer being able to say they’ve got the same jersey in common.
With the playoffs looming, Gainey and the rest of the team will look to them to hopefully provide some leadership and help out offensively. Zednik has proven to be a huge playoff performer, which might be one of the reasons GM Gainey chose to hold onto Slovakian at the trade deadline. Zednik is still under contract for the 2006-2007 season, but Bulis will become a UFA this summer and will likely look elsewhere for a contract.
With so many young forwards with top-6 potential ready to make the jump to the big club as early as next season, players like Zednik and Bulis are in danger of losing their spot on the roster. This has many speculating that their days are nearing an end in Montreal. Should these players fail to impress in the games remaining, look for GM Gainey to find alternative homes for them in the offseason.