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The league leading Ottawa Senators are in Montreal tonight to visit the
Canadiens. So far, the Senators lead the Habs with 3 wins in as many matches,
with scores of 4-2, 4-3 [in overtime] and 4-0. The last time the two teams met
was November 29, when the Habs were embarrassed 4-0. That game the Habs were
forced to ice a makeshift defensive squad of 5 players, including rookies Mark
Streit and JP Cote, playing his first ever NHL game. Tonight will be the first
chance for Ottawa goalie Dominik Hasek to face the Habs. Over the course of his
career, Hasek has played the Habs 38 times, more than any other opponent. Hasek
admits that this season’s team is a better skating club than those he’s faced
previously. "You always pay attention to players like (Saku) Koivu or Kovalev or
(Michael) Ryder, he’s recently become a very good goal scorer, also," said
Hasek. "I knew sooner or later I’d play against them." Dominik has been
dominating the NHL so far this season, with a league’s best GAA & save
percentage of 1.99 and .932 respectively. His 17 wins and 3 shutouts are good
for 2nd place in the league.

The Habs return home from a 2 game road trip banged up again, with uncertainty
over who will be in the lineup. Alexei Kovalev has been practicing with the
team, and may possibly play; his return is based solely on the doctor’s
clearance, as he’s been practicing very well with the Habs recently. Radek Bonk,
plagued by a nagging groin injury, remains on the Injured Reserved list with
Kovalev. Saku Koivu returned to the lineup on Saturday to face his little
brother Mikko in Minnesota. Unfortunately, Saku may not play in the game tonight,
as he left practice early Monday due to the groin injury still bothering him.
Richard Zednik left the practice yesterday with the flu, and Streit is still
recovering from the same. Forward Andrei Kostistyn returned from Hamilton
yesterday, and fellow rookie Garth Murray has stayed with the Habs.= Rookie
forward Tomas Plekanec also suffered a knee injury in the Minnesota game, and
may miss 4-6 weeks. Jose Theodore’s status is doubtful for tonight’s game, so
Christobal Huet will likely get the start, and Yann Danis was called up from
Hamilton to back him up. ***UPDATE*** Kovalev has been cleared to play tonight, and Koivu, Zednik & Plekanec will not dress tonight.

Ottawa fans and coaches were relieved to get some good news on Monday. Jason
Spezza was spared a one-game suspension from an instigator penalty for fighting
during the last five minutes in a game. That occurred Saturday night, during the
Senator’s 8-2 white-washing of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The league reviewed the
event and found no premeditation on Spezza’s part, who had responded to a spear
by Leaf’s defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo. During that game, the Senators tied a
club record with 6 power play goals scored against the Leafs.

Montreal Lineup:

Richard Zednik – Saku Koivu – Alexei Kovalev
Pierre Dagenais – Mike Ribeiro – Michael Ryder
Jan Bulis – Steve Begin – Niklas Sundstrom
Alexander Perezhogin – Garth Murray – Chris Higgins

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

Injuries & Scratches: Yann Danis [G, healthy], Alexei Kovalev [RW, knee
surgery, Injured Reserve List, possible return tonight], Saku Koivu [groin,
day-to-day], Radek Bonk [groin, indefinitely], Mark Streit & Richard Zednik [D,
flu, day to day], Tomas Plekanec [C, knee, indefinitely]

Ottawa Lineup:

Dany Heatley – Jason Spezza – Daniel Alfredsson
Vaclav Varada – Bryan Smolinski – Patrick Eaves
Peter Schaefer – Mike Fisher – Chris Neil
Antoine Vermette – Chris Kelly – Brian Mcgrattan

Zdeno Chara – Chris Phillips
Wade Redden – Brian Pothier
Anton Volchenkov – Andrej Meszaros

Injuries & Scratches: Brandon Bochenski [F, shoulder, indefinitely],
Martin Havlat [F, shoulder surgery, early April return], Ray Emery [G, healthy]

Starting Goalies: Montreal, Christobal Huet; Ottawa, Dominik Hasek

Habs Notes: Former Canadiens great Larry Robinson announced his
resignation as head coach of the New Jersey Devils. Robinson had been suffering
from stress related headaches and an upset stomach. His decision prompted Devils
GM Lou Lamoriello to take on the head coaching role on an interim basis.
Robinson, who had moved up from his assistant’s role, agreed to take over the
coaching position when Pat Burns was diagnosed with cancer last summer.
Lamoriello will lean on former Habs assistant coach Jacques Laperriere to take
on more responsibilities in his assistant coach’s role, along with fellow
assistant coach John MacLean. Who’s Hot: Ribeiro [6 A, 5 Games], Ryder [5 G, 1
A, 6 Games], Bulis & Higgins [1 G, 2 A, 3 Games], Zednik [2 G, 1 A, 4 Games],
Markov [1 G, 3 A, 4 Games], Souray [4 A, 4 Games]…Who’s Cold: Begin &
Dandenault [0 Points, 4 Games], Dagenais & Perezhogin [0 Points, 3 Games]

Senators Notes: Rookie forward Brandon Bochenski suffered a separated
shoulder with possible damage to the collarbone in Saturday’s game, and is
expected to miss the next 4-6 weeks. With Martin Havlat out until April due to
shoulder surgery, look for rookie forward Patrick Eaves to be called upon for
ice time…Rumours have it that the play of Eaves has impressed Ottawa’s
management, and they would now like to move veteran Vaclav Varada to make room
for a permanent spot for Eaves….The Senators, Sharks & Flames are interested
in signing veteran winger Owen Nolan once he’s ready to play….Sens forward
Bryan Smolinski is not expected to be named to the U.S. Olympic team roster.
Smolinski has admitted that his play this season has been sub-par….Who’s Hot:
Alfredsson [1 G, 5 A, 3 Games], Heatley [2 G, 3 A, 3 Games], Spezza [1 G, 2 A, 2
Games], Smolinski [2 G, 2 A, 3 Games], Vermette [1 G, 2 A, 3 Games], Kelly [1 G,
2 A, 3 Games], Fisher [7 G, 5 A, 13 Games], Pothier [2 A, 2 Games], Meszaros [1
G, 5 A, 7 Games], Hasek [2 W, 0 L, 1 T, 1.94 GAA, .937 Sv Pct], Emery [1 W, 1 L,
1 T, 1 SOL, 1.28 GAA, .955 SvPct]