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The New Jersey Devils have to be skating on pins and needles these days. Their GM Lou Lamoriello has structured their lineup to be over the salary cap, and the players and fans are anxiously waiting for a trade that will stabilize their financial position and roster. This waiting game may be what’s affecting the Devils play this season, as they have certainly underachieved so far, with an 8-8-2 record. The club has been without star forward Patrik Elias, who may return next month from battling hepatitis A. Superstar goalie Martin Brodeur has recovered from a knee injury, but lost 6 games for the first time in his career. Forward Alexander Mogilny, has missed the last two games with a concussion, and centre Viktor Kozlov sat out the last game with an unknown injury. The club has missed the presence of these three key players, but has soldiered on under the tutelage of head coach and Habs great Larry Robinson.

While the Habs have been off to spectacular start to the season with a record of 13-3-2, injuries are starting to take a heavy toll on this club. Alexei Kovalev underwent arthroscopic surgery on Tuesday to repair his knee, and will be out anywhere from 4-8 weeks. Starting goalie Jose Theodore is the latest victim, due to a groin injury that was originally noticed on November 7. Theodore tried to play through the injury for the next 3 games before realizing it was going to require rest to improve. Radek Bonk did not accompany the team to New Jersey, and his status for Saturday’s game in Montreal is unknown. Fortunately, forward Jan Bulis will return to action tonight, coming back from a 4 game absence due to a strained shoulder. Yann Danis will benefit from Theodore’s absence with some ice time. The rookie has played well so far this season, and the loss of Jose will give Danis ample ice time since veteran backup Cristobal Huet is not yet ready to return to the NHL.

Watch for the Devils to get their motivation from fear tonight. The players acknowledge that the Habs are a good team this season, and they will try to use the fear of losing to step up their game. Watch the Devils to juggle their lineup a lot, as they strive to find some forward line combinations that produce some offence. Their last game against the Buffalo Sabres was a 4-1 loss, and Larry Robinson had to shuffle 11 forwards and 7 defensemen around that game.

Projected Lineups:
Montreal Canadiens

Richard Zednik – Saku Koivu – Alexander Perezhogin
Chris Higgins – Mike Ribeiro – Michael Ryder
Jan Bulis – Tomas Plekanec – Niklas Sundstrom 
Maxim Lapierre – Steve Begin – Pierre Dagenais

Sheldon Souray – Mike Komisarek
Andrei Markov – Craig Rivet
Francis Bouillon – Mathieu Dandenault

Injuries & Scratches: Jose Theodore [G, groin, day-to-day], Alexei
Kovalev [RW, knee, 4-8 weeks], Radek Bonk [C, groin, day-to-day], Mark Streit [D, healthy]

New Jersey Devils

Zach Parise-John Madden-Brian Gionta
Jay Pandolfo-Scott Gomez-Jamie Langenbrunner
Tuomas Pihlman-Sergei Brylin-Grant Marshall
Darren Langdon-Erik Rasmussen-Barry Tallackson

Vladimir Malakhov-Richard Matvichuk
Brian Rafalski-Sean Brown
Colin White-Paul Martin

Injuries & Scratches: Alexander Mogilny, [W, concussion, day-to-day], Viktor Kozlov [F, unknown, day-to-day], Patrik Elias [LW, Hepatitis A, indefinitely], Dan McGillis [D, healthy]

Starting Goalies: Yann Danis [Habs], Martin Brodeur [Devils]

Habs Notes: The Habs were denied an appeal to reduce their city taxes to the Montreal government. The Canadiens pay $8 million annually, which leads the league for the highest tax rate in the league. Some lobbying has also been done at the provincial level. Who’s Hot: Saku Koivu [2 G, 3 A, 2 Games], Mike Ribeiro [5 G, 9 A, 14 Games], Richard Zednik [3 G, 2 A, 5 Games], Steve Begin [2 G, 2 Games], Andrei Markov [2 G, 6 A, 7 Games], Mathieu Dandenault [2 A, 2 Games], Craig Rivet [3 G, 3 A, 8 Games], Yann Danis [3 W, 0 L, 4 Games, 1.87 GAA, .933 Sv. Pct]….Who’s Cold: Pierre Dagenais [0 points, 8 Games],

Devils Notebook: Mogilny was a healthy scratch recently for one game before suffering a concussion, as Robinson hoped to kick start his offence. Alexander has scored only 5 goals this season….The Devils overall offence has been struggling lately, scoring 2 goals or less in 4 of their last 6 games…Former Habs & Devils head coach Pat Burns is undergoing chemotherapy to battle cancer…Martin Brodeur was recently named to the NHL’s competition committee. The outspoken but knowledgeable Brodeur should make a fine addition to the group….Players who have been mentioned in trade talks are Viktor Kozlov, Jamie Langenbrunner and Sergei Brylin…Who’s Hot: Grant Marshall (2 G, 3 A, 5 Games), Scott Gomez (2 G, 3 A, 5 Games), Brian Gionta (7 G, 6 A, 13 Games), Jamie Langenbrunner (1 G, 3 A, 4 Games)….Who’s Cold: John Madden (0 points, 7 Games), Jay Pandolfo (0 points, 6 Games), Brian Rafalski (0 points, 4 Games), Martin Brodeur (4 W, 5 L, 9 Games, 3.75 GAA, .860 SvPct)