A week ago Sydney Crosby had 39 points and was well on his way to having his second great season, but in a week a lot can change. Crosby has gone from great to just plain ridiculous, scoring three goals and adding nine assists in three games well on his way to earning the NHL’s first star for the week.
The Canadiens currently are the second best defensive team in the conference and tonight is a night where players will not be permitted to take a shift or full periods off as they did Thursday night against Tampa Bay. However no matter how good the Canadiens defence is Cristobal Huet will have to make some big saves, the Penguins have scored twenty-three times in their previous four games and have averaged over 25 shots in those games.
Chris Higgins will return to the Canadiens line-up after missing eighteen games with a high ankle injury. When Higgins was injured against the Devils on November 4th he had thirteen points in as many games and was leading the NHL in short handed goal. Jordan Stall of the Penguins has recently captured Higgins shorthanded crown as he now has four. Head coach Guy Carbonneau used Higgins in Radek Bonk’s place during the Canadiens Friday Practice. Bonk missed the practice and is questionable for tonight’s game after suffering a broken nose and a laceration which needed seven stitches to close.
Marc-Andre Fleury will start in goal for the Penguins. Fleury enters the game on a three game winning streak despite allowing eleven goals during that time frame. Fleury appears to be achieving the success that was expected of him when he was drafted first overall by the Penguins in 2003. Cristobal Huet will counter for the Canadiens. Huet has just one regulation loss in his last eleven starts.
Game Notes: Steve Begin was placed on the retroactive IR in order for Higgins to return and Maxim Lapierre to remain in the line-up. Sheldon Souray did not skate Friday but is expected to play.
1. Marc-Andre Fleury has a 2-1 record against the Canadiens in his young career but as allowed four or more goals in each of those three starts.
2. Chris Higgins scored two goals the last time he played the Pittsburgh Penguins.
3. In last years season series the Penguins and Canadiens combined for 12 power play goals in four games.
4. The Penguins beat the Canadiens three out of a possible four times last year, Crosby twice had the winning goal and set up the other.