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And so the season begins tonight for the Montreal Canadiens. But are they ready?


The captain and best forward Saku Koivu isn’t ready, neiher is Chad Kilger, nor newcomers Langdon & Bégin… who are all injured. Thankfully they are all close to returning, but as far as tonight’s game is concerned that is of little comfort.


This will be their lineup:







While Michael Ryder, the pre-season’s points leader for the Habs, receives a demotion to the 4th line… he received some good news yesterday. Since Jan Bulis will be asked to concentrate on his penalty killing duties, Ryder will be on the 1st power-play unit with Perreault & Audette tonight.

Claude Julien thinks this is a way to give Ryder an opportunity to contribute offensively while not having the pressure of playing on one of the top lines.


The Habs are facing the mighty Ottawa Senators on the road, hardly the ideal way to kick off the season. That said, the Canadiens can feel some measure of confidence having played well and tied Ottawa 1-1 in their last pre-season game. They also have one less threat to worry about since Martin Havlat has yet to agree to terms with the Senators and is threatening to go back home.

But even without Havlat, Ottawa is a formidable team who can manage without him… whether the Habs can say the same about Koivu is another story.


The Canadiens have adopted a new defensive system this year that will reduce the number of shots, and scoring opportunities, Jose Theodore will have to face. Much like the Minnesota Wild last year, they’ll hope to keep it a close low-scoring affair and try to sneak out with a victory.


But the key to why Minnesota succeeded in turning their trap-style game into a recipe for success was their special teams, and that will be the key for the Montreal Canadiens this year. If they can limit the opposition to 1-2 goals, and have some measure of success on the power-play… they will be successful.

The defensemen will have a crucial role in that respect, a lot will depend on how well Andrei Markov and Patrice Brisebois run the power-play from the point. Sheldon Souray and his heavy shot will play a role, and rookie Ron Hainsey who will play tonight can also make things happen with the man advantage.


Scratches for tonight’s game: Francis Bouillon (sore ribs), Chris Higgins (healthy), Mike Komisarek (healthy).