The Montreal Canadiens are unbeaten in their last five games, but let’s hope I didn’t just jinx them. With their streak on the line, the eighth place Habs will play host to a Philadelphia Flyers team that has been nothing short of brilliant on the ice this season. Their excellence has them sitting a top the entire NHL, coupled with a sparkling 16-3-6-1 record for 39 points. Mathieu Garon will be kicking ’em from between the pipes tonight, giving Jose Theodore a day off after allowing two goals in as many games against the lowly Hurricanes this past weekend. For the Flyers, former Montreal netminder Jeff Hackett will start for the second consecutive game. The classy Hackett is riding a pretty little streak of his own, as he has gone undefeated in his last eight trips to the goal, recording a remarkable 6-0-2 record during that period of time.
Reduce and revenge are two words that are surely floating through the minds of the Habs. After being spanked 5-0 in their last meeting with the Flyers, Claude Julien’s boys are preparing for a much different outcome. One things for sure, the goals against will have to be cut down in a huge way. It will not be easy, though. The penalty boxes were full of red, white, and blue sweaters for a large portion of last weekend’s games, a place the CH will have to avoid like the plague if they’d like to have a sniff at victory tonight. Philadelphia’s number one ranked powerplay is the primary reason for that, but Montreal will be without a pair of regular penalty killers, Joe Juneau and Stephane Quintal. Quintal was suspended for one game by the NHL on Tuesday for an incident against the Hurricanes, while Juneau is fully expected to be relaxing his ailing back for a third straight contest.
Fiery Habs’ centreman Steve Begin, who is quickly winning over fans with his robust and wreckless style of play, is giving Juneau reason to worry. After being named the game’s first star on Saturday at the Bell Centre, Begin’s admirable play on a line with Niklas Sundstrom and Andy Dackell may be quickly earning him the role of checking line centre. With Quintal’s abscence, Mike Komisarek should slide comfortably back to defence with fellow giant Sheldon Souray. There should be no lineup changes tonight for the Habs, save for the return of Richard Zednik. The talented winger was kindly excused from Saturday night’s game due to the birth of his first child, Ella.
Perhaps the biggest question up front, will be how Zednik is worked back into the lineup. There’s no denying that he fully deserves to slip back onto the top line with Saku Koivu and Michael Ryder, but Jan Bulis was great in his one game stint with the aforementioned duo. If Zednik does return to Koivu’s wing, Bulis will likely drop to the second line, alongside Mike Ribeiro.
Jeremy Roenick and his 25 points currently lead the team in points, just one ahead of former Montreal star Mark Recchi. With 12 goals and 12 assists in 26 games, the energetic and crafty winger is not letting age take a toll on his performance. The Flyers are, of course, a team that is loaded with former Habs. From Eric Chouinard to Eric Desjardins to John Leclair, and of course Recchi and Hackett, all have made a fair contribution to their team so far.
Jason Ward and Donald Audette are still sidelined with injuries, but both have returned to the ice and may be ready to play this week. Philadelphia’s Claude Lapointe will not be in the line-up after the veteran forward checked himself into the NHL’s Substance Abuse-Behavioral Health Program.
You can catch tonight’s game at 7:30 on RDS, or on the radio via CJAD 800 or CKAC. Be sure to chirp in with your pregame, in game and postgame comments in the Habsworld Forum.