The Montreal Canadiens are at home tonight to face a Calgary Flames team that is waiting for a spark to catch fire. The Flames are a team that is off to a slow start, with a 2-2-1 record so far this season. Considering many experts predicted them to win the Western conference, fans and media in Calgary are starting to question those expectations. Their last game Saturday night was a 4-3 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Flames have one of the best goalies in the NHL with Vezina winner Miikka Kiprusoff, a solid defensive corps lead by a top 3 of Dion Phaneuf, Roman Hamrlik, and Robyn Regehr. Coupled with all-stars Jarome Iginla & Alex Tanguay, solid forwards Daymond Langkow & Tony Amonte, along with a crew of hard working checkers & other up and comers at forward, GM Darryl Sutter has assembled a fine team. New head coach Jim Playfair has a lot to live up to considering his boss’s success at coaching the Flames.
The Habs are coming off of a somewhat flat performance Saturday night, a 3-2 shootout loss in their home opener. The one point cost the Canadiens dearly, as they lost veteran defencemen Craig Rivet & Mathieu Dandenault to injuries late in the game, and were forced to rotate their other 4 defenceman for the last 8 minutes of the game. The remaining defencemen played well under the high tempo shifts. For tonight’s game, there will be some good and bad news. It appears that Rivet will return to the lineup, but Dandenault, as he has suffered a torn hamstring, and will be out indefinitely. Second year player Mark Streit will be inserted into the lineup in his place, and is anxious for his first game of this season. “I’m confident that I can do the job,” said Streit, who played 47 games as a rookie last season. “I’m more comfortable and more confident than I was last year at this time. I had to make a lot of adjustments to playing in North America, but I had a good camp and I’m ready.” Rivet was more fortunate, especially since he took two shots off the same foot in the third period of the last game. He took treatments from the trainers and after participating in yesterday morning’s practice, he declared he would be ready to play in tonight’s game. “There’s some discomfort, but I didn’t have any problems with my mobility,” Rivet said. “Blocking shots is part of the game. You hope that they hit you a little higher, like on the shin pads, but the bruises are the price you pay. My foot hurts, but then I look at a guy like Steve Begin, who’s blocking shots and you see him after a game and he has ice packs on every part of his body.”
The choice of Huet over Aebischer for tonight’s game is an interesting one. Aebischer has a career record of 9-3-1-0, with a 2.18 GAA, a .925 save percentage, 2 shutouts in 14 games versus the Flames. Huet has an 0-4-1-0 record, a 2.74 GAA, and a .900 save percentage against Calgary.
Predicted Montreal Lineup:
Chris Higgins – Saku Koivu – Michael Ryder
Sergei Samsonov – Tomas Plekanec – Alexei Kovalev
Mike Johnson – Radek Bonk – Alex Perezhogin
Aaron Downey – Steve Begin – Guillaume Latendresse
Michael Komisarek – Andrei Markov
Sheldon Souray – Craig Rivet
Janne Niinama – Mark Streit
Scratches & Injuries: David Aebischer [scratch], Garth Murray [scratch], Mathieu Dandenault [hamstring injury] Francis Bouillon [knee surgery; expected back late November]
Predicted Calgary Lineup:
Kristian Huselius – Daymond Langkow – Jarome Iginla
Alex Tanguay – Matthew Lombardi – Chuck Kobasew
Jeff Friesen- Stepane Yelle – Tony Amonte
Marcus Nilson -Jamie Lundmark – Darren McCarty
Robin Regehr – Dion Phaneuf
Andrew Ference – Mark Giordano
Roman Hamrlik – Andrei Zyuzin
Scratches & Injuries: Byron Ritchie [scratch], Rhett Warrener [knee injury], Eric Nystrom [undisclosed injury]
Montreal is tied for 13th in the league on the power play, and an impressive 1st in penalty killing, allowing only 1 goal against in 24 attempts….The last two of Chris Higgins three goals this season have been short handed…. While Christobal Huet is expected to start tonight’s game, David Aebischer has been given the nod to start Wednesday’s game against Chicago….Tonight’s game versus the Flames will be the only regular season match in the schedule.
Calgary is 30th in the league on the power play so far this season, and 21st in penalty killing….During the Flames fitness training near the start of training camp, Chuck Kobasew, Andrew Ference and Jarome Iginla were the team’s top three players….Mark Giordano surprised the Maple leafs with his offensive ability, by scoring 2 goals against them last Saturday, including his first ever NHL goal.
Giordano, a rookie for Calgary, has tied the Flames lead for goals scored, with