Montreal is in Atlanta tonight, to face a high flying Thrashers squad. Atlanta is currently on a 4 game winning streak, while the Habs are on a 3 game losing streak. Les Habitants are going to have to rely heavily on rookie goalie Jaroslav Halak, if the Habs are going to pull out of their slump and make a run at a lower playoff spot. Montreal’s last game played was March 3, so the team is certainly well rested and should be ready for this important game.
In the Habs favour for tonight’s game is the fact that they have defeated Atlanta in all 3 matches this season, outscoring them 11-4. Going back to the last 10 match ups, the Habs hold a 7-2-0-1 record. Their record in Atlanta going back to 2003 is 4-1-0. The Habs also hold a key advantage in the specialty teams department, especially on the power play. The Thrashers are currently 28th in the league on the penalty kill, while the Habs are 1st. However, Atlanta has shown much improvement on their penalty killing lately, with success for 25 of their last 28 short handed situations in the past 8 games.
The Thrashers have made some significant trades before the February 27 deadline. The biggest name was Keith Tkachuk, who was obtained on February 25th at the steep price of a forward Glen Metropolit, a first & third round draft pick in 2007, and second round pick in 2008 and a conditional first round pick in 2008. The conditional pick is likely based on Tkachuk resigning with Atlanta. On February 24, GM Don Waddell then acquired veteran defenceman Alexei Zhitnik, a good offensive back liner, for another defenceman, former first round pick Braydon Coburn. On February 27, Atlanta shored up their 3rd line by obtaining forward Pascal Dupuis from the NY Rangers, for prospect forward Alex Bourret. Clearly, Atlanta has made these moves to shore up their team to make the playoffs, and perhaps make some sort of splash while they are there.
Starting Goalies: Montreal, Jaroslav Halak; Atlanta, Kari Lehtonen
Habs Notes: Francis Bouillon will be returning to the lineup for tonight’s game, after being a healthy scratch on March 3. He will take newcomer Josh Gorges’ spot. Coach Guy Carbonneau announced the change from the last game in Boston: “He’s a professional. We had a good talk about it. I know he’s not happy about it and I wouldn’t expect him to be. He always plays hard. We just want him to play better.” With the announcement of Halak as the starter, Carbonneau added “He has been solid since he’s been here and gives us a chance to win. He seems more and more comfortable.”…Alexander Perezhogin continues to suffer from concussion like symptoms since he suffered a puck shot off of the side of his head earlier this month. He is listed as day to day…Hot Habs: Tomas Plekanec (2 G, 1 A, 3 Games), Andrei Kostitsyn (2 A, 2 Games), Mark Streit (1 G, 2 A, 2 Games), Sheldon Souray (1 G, 1 A, 2 Games)
Atlanta Notes: Bobby Holik scored his 700th NHL point on March 4th, with an assist on a goal by Marian Hossa. When told about the milestone, Holik, responded “You know what? It’s about one thing and one thing only,” he said after the game. “That’s winning. It doesn’t make a difference to me — getting two points, getting away from these guys, that’s what makes a difference.”…GM Waddell is ranked 6th on a Forbes.com rankings list of the best GM’s amongst the four major pro sports leagues. Other NHL GM’s ahead of Waddel are New Jersey GM Lou Lamoriello at 5th and Tampa Bay GM Jay Feaster. The Canadiens GM Bob Gainey is listed at the number 44 spot.