Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, rookie netminder Carey Price will get his much anticipated first start in the NHL, and he’s treating it like any other game.
It’s almost fitting in a way that on October 10th, 2007 at 730pm ET, the 20 year old Price will face an immense challenge. Initially, the goaltending protégé has to battle the nerves and jitters that come with playing his first game in the big leagues. Okay, so he has played a few in pre-season and always seems to be calm, cool and collective on and off the ice, but chances are there will be plenty of butterflies floating through his body in the moments leading up to the first face-off. Secondly, the Penguins are an offensive powerhouse who will most likely give Price a lot of action. Why is it fitting? His first game is against the NHL’s premiere superstar in Sydney Crosby, and a cast of hockey’s best rising stars, the perfect test to see what Price is really made of.
Its hard not to concentrate solely on Carey Price for this match up at the Igloo, after all, he will only have one start in the National Hockey League. Reporters asked him Tuesday after practice if he was nervous; “a little bit, I get pretty nervous every once in a while but its just another game and hopefully I have a lot more ahead of me.” The young goaltender has a mature demeanor, at only 20 years of age it’s a great quality, a quality that helped Canada capture the 2007 world juniors and a quality that made his transition to helping the Hamilton Bulldogs win the 2007 Calder Cup, on top of being named most valuable player of the playoffs, an easy one.
Price gets the nod after No.1 goalie Cristobal Huet had a win and an overtime loss in the Habs first two season games. Huet allowed 6 goals on 62 shots for a 2.88 GAA and a .903 save percentage, not atrocious numbers by any means. It’s a smart decision to start the rookie on the road and for him to see some rubber “we don’t want to keep him away from the ice too long” coach Carbonneau told reporters Tuesday after practice. Just imagine his first NHL game at the Bell Center, hundreds of reporters flashing shots in his face all day long, the crowd watching his every move. Having him start on the road is a better psychological move for the kid, if he should crack under the pressure, he won’t have to deal with all the scrutiny and displeasure from Montreal fans and media.
It’s not only Price’s NHL debut Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, Kyle Chipchura will step down from the press box and jump in on the fourth line between Steve Begin and Mathieu Dandenault. Josh Gorges, former San Jose Shark brought over to Montreal in exchange for Craig Rivet last February, gets his season debut on defence resulting in Patrice Brisebois being a healthy scratch. The pending lineup for Wednesday night’s tilt in Pittsburgh is as follows;
Chris Higgins – Saku Koivu – Michael Ryder
Alex Kovalev – Tomas Plekanec – Andrei Kostitsyn
Guillaume Latendresse – Bryan Smolinski – Tom Kostopoulos
Steve Bégin – Kyle Chipchura – Mathieu Dandenault
Andrei Markov – Mike Komisarek
Josh Gorges – Roman Hamrlik
Francis Bouillon – Mark Streit
Starting in goal:
Tomas Plekanec gets the promotion he deserves and is back to familiar territory on the second line between Kovalev and Kostitsyn. Mikhail Grabovski gets the axe due to a slow start. The 23 year old had only 1 shot and no points in his first 2 games.
Wednesday night’s game in Pittsburgh wraps up a three game road trip for the Habs, where they already have 3 of a possible 4 points. Worse comes to worse, the Habs play their home opener Saturday vs Carolina with 3 out of 6 points. Not so bad for a team that’s been projected by TSN’s power rankings to finish 21st overall, and by Sports Illustrated to finish 12th in the East. It is early but as we’ve heard time and time again this year, the Habs have depth, and early signs of that depth are already starting to show as Carbonneau made some swift roster adjustments.
It’s the Habs vs the Pens, or is it premature to say Price vs Crosby? Whatever you want to call it, it’s destined to be a thriller.