Final Habs pre-season round-up... Thursday can't come any sooner!

The Habs roster is down to 28 players, Sergei Kostitsyn is gone, those left are bromancing it up at ''teen ranch'' outside Toronto, and Thursday couldn't come any sooner... seriously...

As good as it to have hockey back in any form, I'm sick of training-camp scrimmages, preseason games, and NHL 10 is even starting to get to me! I want the real thing, baby! I want hard hitting, meaningful, regular season hockey! And it's almost here! Only a few more days until the Habs face the Leafs in what is shaping up to be an emotional, hard-hitting, hard-nosed classic between the two age-old rivals.

Ok, I MAY be hyping it up a bit more than it deserves to be, but, come on, the storylines couldn't have been set up more perfectly! Habs hate Leafs. Leafs hate Habs. Add a lot of hard nosed players on one team, a lot of young, exciting players on the Leafs, and a lot of succesful veterans who know how to win on the Habs, and you have, to say the least, a very interesting match-up.

And I haven't even begun to bitch about the HUGE x-factor that just inserted himself into this rivalry, the big shit stain on the wall, the ostrich (no, I'm not just describing his hockey skills) in the room, the backstabber himself, Mike Komisarek!

Can you tell I don't like him anymore? :)

And I know Leafs fans will argue that you can't go from loving a player, calling him the next captain of the Canadiens, voting him into an All-Star game, and all that junk one day, and then hate him the next day, but I'd have to disagree. Komisarek is now public enemy number one in this city and he deserves any boos he will receive when the Leafs visit the Bell Centre for the first time on October 31st.

In a recent interview with Habs-Hater Ken Campbell of The Hockey News, ''Komisarek talks about leaving Montreal, a place for which he has 'nothing but great memories,' saying he had approached the Canadiens 'a couple of years ago' about a new contract but that the Habs chose to wait''.

While I actually do kind of understand Komisarek's POV (I was totally against Gainey not signing a single upcoming free agent during last season), I can't help but feel like he's trying to pander a little bit. If he had ''nothing but great memories'' in Montreal, then he would have made a bigger effort to stay here. Gainey didn't say he wanted to wait past July 1st, most sources have said that there was a contract for Komisarek on the table before free agency and that Komisarek refused it to go the leafs.

yet Komisarek makes it sound like Gainey and the organization gave up on him after his horrid season last year... ya right. Wanna bet Komisarek was talking to Brian Burke long before July 1st? Wanna bet that they were talking about next year's Olympics, and Komisarek's role on that team, and that the conversation slowly shifted to Komisarek becoming a leaf on July 1st? Wanna bet that there are some tampering issues there? It's no coincidence that both him and Phil Kessel, both American players who's spots on team USA next year are not guaranteed, are now playing for that team's GM and Coach... The irony is that it's the Habs that signed a bunch of American players!

Anyway, enough ranting. I'll have plenty more chances to vent about Komisarek and his backhanded tactics over the next 5 years :)

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Back to the final pre-season preview... the roster is down to 28, with Sergei Kostitsyn having been sent down to Hamilton.

I was always a fan of Sergei BEFORE he made the team in Montreal. It's always good to see a European take the junior route and come to North America before he needs to. You'd think playing under Dale Hunter and the London Knights would make him a less-selfish, smart player and person, but it didn't. It seemed like Sergei was always immersed in some sort of controversy last year, on or off the ice, and by the fact that Jacques Martin both chewed him out and cut him from the roster in the last few days, it's evident that this guy doesn't belong on the team, at least not until he grows up a little more. Hopefully he can do that under Guy Boucher in Hamilton.

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According to Pat Hickey and Dave Stubbs of the Gazette and Habs Inside/Out, these were the practice lines for this morning's skate:

Pacioretty-Gomez-Gionta
Cammalleri-Plekanec-A. Kostitsyn
Latendresse-Lapierre-D'Agostini
Moen-Metropolit-Laraque
Maxwell-Chipchura-Stewart

Markov-Spacek
Gill-Mara
Gorges-O'Byrne
Hamrlik-Weber

The goalies (Price, Halak and Sanford) must be lurking around somewhere. Tom Pyatt, who has had a very good training camp so far, is out with a concussion after being stapled to the boards by Buffalo's Kaleta, but it's looking more and more like he might make the team anyway, at least in the pressbox. No word on where defenseman Matt Carle is at, despite not being cut from the team, at least not to my knowledge.

What's interesting is that this more or less what I thought the line-up would look like all along (at least since the 1st preseason game I watched). Gomez and Gionta are too good together to separate, and Pacioretty will complement them well. Plekanec will benefit from a sniper like Cammalleri, but I think Kostitsyn will be lost on that line. The frenchmen with D'Agostini will be an exciting 3rd line and will contribute well offensively if they keep them together. That 4th line doesn't look too bad either, and that ''5th'' line is basically all the odd men out.

I would not be surprised if this was Thursday's line-up in Toronto. O'Byrne needs to be in that game and I wouldn't be surprised to see Hamrlik sit the first game out just to make sure he's healthy.

Price WILL start the game.

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And that's all I have for the Habs preseason preview. Honestly there wasn't much to report out of training camp this year, we basically knew what the line-up would be going into this month, plus or minus a few roleplayers. I'm definitely excited to see this team iced in a game that matters.

I'll be back tomorrow with my standing predictions as well as some notes and thoughts from around the league, and another game preview on Thursday, the big day!

And just to tide everyone over until there, here's another Georges Laraque gem, thanks, as always, to habs Inside/Out: