The Montreal Canadiens are coming off a thrilling 4-3 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, but they’ll be back at work Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes. It will be the third of four meetings between the teams this season. Each team has registered a win in Carolina in the previous two meetings.
The Habs took the first game in Raleigh with Cristobal Huet making 31 saves to shut out the defending Stanley Cup Champions 4-0. The Hurricanes won the next match 4-2 on third period goals from Justin Williams and Eric Belanger.
Sheldon Souray and Tomas Plekanec joined forces last Sunday afternoon to help the Montreal Canadiens earn two points in a key game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Both players had three points, with Plekanec stealing a puck from Sidney Crosby at the Habs’ blue line to spring a 2-on-1 situation with Souray to his right. Plekanec showed no greed in overtime when he decided not to go for the hat-trick and passed the puck to Souray instead who one-timed it home for the win.
The Carolina Hurricanes are on a skid as of late, having lost 4 straight games in which they have been out-scored 19-7. They did manage to pick up a single point last Saturday in a 4-3 OT loss to the Boston Bruins. Erik Staal took a tripping penalty 44 seconds into the extra frame, and a minute later it was Zdeno Chara who got his hard shot off to seal the win and extra point.
With their win against Pittsburgh, the Habs reclaimed sole possession of forth place in the east with 64 points, one more than the Ottawa Senators who the Habs will face in back-to-back games on Thursday in Ottawa and Sunday at the Bell Centre in Montreal. Meanwhile, Carolina is currently clinging on to eighth place in the east with 59 points. The Maple Leafs and Islanders hold enough games in hand to catch and pass Carolina, so every game is a must win from here on out for the defending champs.
Samsonov Wants Out: RDS.ca is reporting this morning that Sergei Samsonov and his agent, Neil Abbott, have requested a trade. Samsonov has already been involved in many trade rumors this season after failing to produce with the team. The $3.5M contract that still has a year left on it doesn’t make moving the Russian winger very easy for Gainey. In 52 games with the Habs, Samsonov has only 7 goals and 15 assists for 22 points as well as an even plus/minus rating.
Kaberle Returns: Frantisek Kaberle will play his first game of the season when the Canes face the Habs in Montreal tonight after missing 55 games due to shoulder surgery. Kaberle provides a much needed offensive boost to Carolina’s blue-line, after helping the team to their first Cup last season. In 77 games with the Hurricanes last year, Kaberle collected 44 points, including 6 goals. The defenseman also had 13 points in 25 post-season games, including the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the Finals against the Edmonton Oilers.
Goalie controversy?: There is question around the city as to if goaltender David Aebischer may be slowly taking the starting job from teammate Huet. Aebischer has had the hotter glove lately, winning two of his last three starts. Huet once boasted some of the best stats in the league, but his play has drastically fallen over the passed 14 games. During that 14-game span, Huet posted only 5 wins, a 3.44 GAA, and a 0.895 save percentage. Expect Aebischer to get the call against Carolina in Montreal, and Huet will likely get a start in Ottawa on Thursday with slightly less pressure on the road.
Ryder in Carbo’s Dog House: When Coach Guy Carbonneau dismantled the Habs’ first line, Michael Ryder found himself playing on 9 minutes on the forth line with Aaron Downey and Maxim Lapierre. Having failed to lift his game play, don’t be surprised if Ryder takes Alexander Perezhogin’s spot in the press box when the Habs face Carolina.
Presidential Praise: The Carolina Hurricanes were honored for their Stanley Cup win last Friday when they met with US President George W. Bush. The team presented the President with a home jersey with his name on the back. It’s a well known fact that any President is a busy man, but on Friday, it had been 228 days since the Cup was awarded to the ‘Canes on June 19th, 2006. Even for a President, that’s a pretty long gap before congratulating a championship team. However, the United States is not a hockey first country, and this particular instance supports that.
Injury Report: Montreal will be without the services of defenseman Andrei Markov for about a week with an MCL injury. It is still unknown when forward Steve Begin will be ready to suit up for the Habs as he continues to recover from back spasms and get into game shape after missing over 20 games.