The Montreal Canadiens attempt to regain their one point lead over the Ottawa Senators in a rematch on Saturday night in Montreal. With their last loss against the Senators, the Habs fell to sixth place in the Eastern Conference thanks in part to a 5-4 shoot-out win by the Pittsburgh Penguins who claimed forth place.
The Canadiens came up flat against the Ottawa Senators last Thursday, losing the match 4-1. The Habs’ lone goal came on a penalty-shot by Guillaume Latendresse. The rookie was awarded the opportunity when he was high-sticked by defenseman Chris Philips. He actually got cut up by the high stick and took the penalty-shot with fresh blood stains on his jersey and a gauze in his left nostril. Latendresse moved in on goaltender Ray Emery with a lot of speed and stick-handled his way into a shot that beat the keeper blocker side.
Cristobal Huet got the start for the Montreal Canadiens. To say that the All-Star hasn’t been playing his best hockey lately would be an understatement. However, Huet faced a total of 39 shots last night, allowing 4 goals. The first goal scored on the French netminder wasn’t pretty, a semi slap-shot from Phillips that clipped Huet’s glove and trickled passed him into the net. Although his performance wasn’t entirely awful, expect David Aebischer to get the start on Saturday.
Ottawa got a strong performance from their top players against the Habs on Thursday after they failed to make an impact the night before in Buffalo. Jason Spezza had a goal and an assist while Dany Heatley picked up a goal, which proved to be the game winner, and Daniel Alfredsson notched an assist on Peter Schaefer’s goal. Defenseman Anton Volchenkov posted two assists on the night, while also blocking an astounding 6 shots on the night, including several hard ones from Mark Streit during the Habs’ power-play.
Injury Free?: The Montreal Canadiens have an opportunity to ice a full roster on Saturday with the potential return of Steve Begin (back), Andrei Markov (MCL), and Craig Rivet (Flu). Should Begin return, it would be his first action since December 11th, 2006 when the team listed him as day-to-day with back spasms. Begin as missed 27 straight games.
Who Goes?: If Begin were to come off of IR, Montreal would have a total of 24 players on their active roster, one too many. The obvious choice to be sent down to Hamilton is Maxim Lapierre because he is the only player who does not need to clear waivers. Garth Murray is an option since he would not have to clear to go down having been placed on waivers less than a month ago. However, if the Habs were to send Murray down and wished to bring him back up, he would be subject to re-entry waivers. Re-entry is a problem because the Habs would risk losing him while they would still be required to pay half of his contract both this season and next.
Spelling with Spezza: The Ottawa Senators do their best to remain involved with their community, and Spezza is ready to help. Each month there are 38 winners of the “Spelling with Spezza” program that allows students who scored perfect grades in spelling a chance to meet the player, attend a game, and receive a poster. Spezza will meet with the luck 19 boys and 19 girls who make up the 38 selected this month on Monday, February 12th.