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The struggling Habs, with a recent record of 2-3-1 in the past two weeks, are at home to take on the soaring Atlanta Thrashers squad. Since last Tuesday, Atlanta has a 3-1-0 record, outscoring their opposition 20-7 in that span. Marc Savard has led the way with 11 points in the last 4 games. His teammate, Ilya Kovalchuk has also potted 6 points in his last 2 games. The Thrashers goaltenders have taken a beating due to injuries; as many as 4 goalies have been on the injured reserve list at one point this season. The team will get some relief as veteran Steve Shields’ knee has responded well to rest, and has been cleared to play tonight. Atlanta’s last game was a 5-1 loss to Toronto on Saturday. Head coach Bob Hartley was unhappy with the performance of a couple of veterans in that game, and has made them healthy scratches to give forwards JP Vigier returning from a broken foot, and Brad Larsen the chance to play tonight.

Yesterday, the Canadiens gathered for their annual team photo, after going through an easy practice session. Coach Claude Julien wanted to proceed with caution instead of punishing his players, due to a few players that are playing through injuries, including Jose Theodore [groin] and Francis Bouillon [knee]. Julien preferred a controlled, simple practice to try and keep the players from reinjuring or further aggravating their current or old injuries. Team strategies were revisited and emphasized in the hope that the team will get back to their winning ways. A few lineup changes for the forwards will be noticed tonight, but Julien would not confirm who would get the start in goal.

In the Habs first match with Atlanta this season, the team triumphed with a 2-0 win. It was the first career start for backup goalie Yann Danis, and a well deserved shutout. Tonight’s match should be a return to speed for the Habs, in particular forwards Chris Higgins, Thomas Plekanec and Jan Bulis, who all played well in the first game against the Thrashers.

Projected Lineups:

Montreal Canadiens

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

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

Injuries & Scratches: Yann Danis [G, healthy], Alexei Kovalev [RW, knee, 4-8 weeks],

Atlanta Thrashers

Jim Slater-Marc Savard-Peter Bondra
Ilya Kovalchuk-Vyacheslav Kozlov-Marian Hossa
JP Vigier-Bobby Holik-Brad Larsen
Eric Boulton-Patrik Stefan-Scott Mallanby

Jaroslav Modry-Greg Devries
Andy Sutton-Niclas Havelid
Shane Hnidy-Garnet Exelby

Injuries & Scratches: Ronald Petrovicky [F, healthy], Serge Aubin [F, healthy] Starting Goalies: Montreal-Jose Theodore; Atlanta-Steve Shields

Habs Notes: Alexei Kovalev met with the press yesterday to discuss his knee surgery. He states that he’s a fast healer, and that he can’t wait to trade in his crutches for a hockey stick….Sheldon Souray was excused from practice to take care of personal matters in Los Angeles. He’s expected to return to play tonight…Maxim Lapierre was returned to the AHL on Saturday….Who’s Hot: Koivu [3 G, 4 A, 4 Games], Zednik [2 G, 1 A, 3 Games], Plekanec [1 G, 2 A, 3 Games], Souray [3 A, 3 Games]

Atlanta Journal: Former Habs forward from the 1970’s Pete Mahovlich, is a pro scout for Atlanta. Mahovlich was part of Team Canada from the 1972 Summit Series versus the Soviet Union. He along with all 35 members from that squad was entered into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. Pete, who took part in 4 Stanley Cups for the Habs in the 1970’s felt very honored by being part of the Team Canada squad…Who’s Hot: Kovalchuk [3 G, 3 A, 2 Games], Savard [1 G, 14 A, 6 Games], Bondra [7 G, 7 A, 9 Games]…Who’s Cold: Petrovicky [No points in last 6 Games], Hossa [No points in last 3 Games]