Every time anyone loses anything four times in a row, happiness won’t exactly be flying around. Take, for example, Claude Julien, who has, for the second straight game, decided that he had nothing to lose in flipping his line combinations completely upside down. If you are looking for a smile though, go directly to Jan Bulis. With 12 goals on the season, the hardworking Czech will now see time on a line with a pair of premier forwards, Saku Koivu and Richard Zednik.
While the Habs haven’t lost four straight, the streak currently sits at three, they face an always dangerous Thrashers club tonight. Among the many talented Thrasher forwards are Ilya Kovalchuk, Dany Healtey, Slava Kozlov, Shawn Maceachern and Marc Savard. And, despite both Heatley and Savard currently being on modest two-game pointstreaks, let’s stop, turn around, and let out a big laugh at what has been a brutal Altlanta Thrashers hockey club for the past little while. Once considered the success story of the season, the Thrash are now 22-30-6-2, and could consider their playoff hopes to be quite tarnished. Nonetheless, it’s hard not to cheer for a team such as this, especially when one considers not only what a great player Dany Heatley is (top five in the league for my money), but how remarkably he has handled all of the tradgedy and blame circling him for the past few months.
In fact, it would have been appropriate for fans to see Atlanta to ride Healtey’s wave of emotion all the way to the postseason, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. In fact, the Heatley situation is very similiar to what Saku Koivu dealt with during his remarkable return. While winning is the number one concern on Captain K’s mind, don’t be surprised if the Habs classy frontman has a few kind words for his opposition in Heatley.
Koivu, afterall, should be in a fairly good mood. If Coach Claude was not already bald heading into the team’s 3 game skid, than he certainly would be by now. As mentioned earlier, it is apparently a not so jolly day for Julien, as he threw the forwards a complete curveball, completely revamping the lines. The first change, which will see Richard Zednik fill the role of Michael Ryder on the top line is what that, at long last, his finally transpired. Unfortunately, Zednik should have replaced Jan Bulis in order to form a line of Zednik, Koivu and Ryder. While the trio of Bulis, Zednik, and Koivu performed well together during a short time last season, the real magic should be coming from Saku and Zed. The two have such great chemisty, that it wouldn’t surprise me in the least bit to see some Zednikian sparks flying tonight.
However, Julien is hoping that his ‘double R’s’, Ryder and Mike Ribeiro, can add some extra scoring punch from the team’s second line, which is completed by Nik Sundstrom. The intelligent winger, Sundstrom has six points in his last six games, which were topped off by a pair of assists against the Sens.
The man who benefited from Sunny’s two helpers, and the only other Hab to hit the score sheet on Saturday, Steve Begin, will reportedly dress on the left wing of the third line. Begin’s energy should be welcomed to Juneau’s trio, as Jason Ward will apparently see this game from the outs. Clearly Ward must be battling some sort of mysterious ailment, unless there are bigger happenings going down. In other words, if Ward is indeed a healthy scratch, than coach Julien has been spending far too much time with Theodore’s non-hockey buddies, because it surely couldn’t be a decision made by a clear-thinking person.
Andrei Markov will continue to hold the fort on the Habs’ blueline, followed by Jose Theodore, who gets the call in the nets. It’s a bit of an odd ruling from Julien. Even if one ignores Theo’s inflated numbers of late (0-2-0, 4.53, .877), he has looked shaky and tired. While he has successfully transformed Ilya Kovalchuk from sniper to sniped whenever the Russian star comes to the Bell Centre, Jose needs to regain his magic. It’s alright to cool off at certain points in time, but the playoff stretch is not the right time to do that. While Theo insists he performs his best when he plays alot, that may not be the case this time. I hate to look past a game, but win-or-lose, Mathieu Garon is the man who should be tackling the Flames on Thursday.
Oh, and just in case you’re searching for an excuse not to do whatever it is you’re supposed to do prior to the game, this one is a 7:30 start, which means you’ll need to buy yourself a little bit more time than usual. Of course, no one would object to you hanging around the Habsworld Forum. We may be angry about losing, but no one will bite (unless you ask them to).
38 Bulis – 11 Koivu – 20 Zednik
37 Sundstrom – 71 Ribeiro – 73 Ryder
22 Begin – 90 Juneau – 24 Dackell
25 Kilger – 94 Perreault – 15 Langdon
79 Markov – 5 Quintal
52 Rivet – 8 Komisarek
51 Bouillon – 43 Brisebois
Likely Scratches : 17 Ward (?), 26 Dagenais (healthy) 28 Dykhuis (healthy), 44 Souray (knee)