Game 15 Preview: Thrashers visit Habs (again), injuries continue to pile up Update: Price, Carle confirmed
The Canadiens are coming off a 5-4 shootout victory against the Leafs this past Saturday night, and while it may not have been the best win of the season, it's a win, and most people would expect tight, emotional games from these two teams, no matter how bad one or both may be. They take whatever momentum they have from this past weekend and bring it into the Bell Centre tonight to face the Ilya Kovalchuk-less Atlanta Thrashers!
To be perfectly honest, there isn't much to say about the Atlanta Thrashers that I didn't say two weeks ago when the Thrashers paid their first visit to the Bell Centre. Naturally, both clubs have played their fair share of games since the Canadiens defeated the Thrashers 2-1 in a shootout on that Tuesday night in Montreal.
Since then, the Canadiens have gone 4-2, with all their wins comin at home. They looked bad losing to the Penguins, bad barely getting by te Islanders, and bad giving up a 2 goal lead while their fans were chanting the ''Goodbye'' song last Saturday night against the Leafs. The did, however, look good beating the Islanders the first time 5-1, beating the Rangers after falling behind, and losing to the Hawks in a close game last Friday. They currently sit in 9th place in the east, thanks to an unlikely 4 game win streak from the Islanders (ironically undefeated since they last played the Canadiens).
The Thrashers, meanwhile, have gone 1 and 3 since last facing the Canadiens, however they can't be too disappointed with their performances while missing their star player, Ilya Kovalchuk. All three of their loses against the Sharks and twice against the Caps, were one goal games in which they managed to score 3 or more goals. Their win against the Sens on Saturday? A little tighter, 3-1, but they did it in Ottawa, without their star player and with a goalie that made 50 incredible saves. They sit at 12th place in the East, but they've only played 10 games and are a .500 team, giving them a shot as the season wears on.
I won't bother anyone too much with too many further details about the Thrashers, as our newest blogger, Chris Telford, will fill you in with all you need to know about the Thrashers on a regular basis from hereon in. But I will say that you should look out for Rich Perveley, who is breaking out this season for both the Thrashers and my fantasy pool with 6 goals and 7 assists in 10 games. Nik Antropov has yet to score, but has 10 assists, mostly on Kovalchuk goals before he was injured, and Enstrom and Bogosian were provide offense from the back end. Add that core to a great young goaltender in Ondrej Pavalec, and tonight's game is closer than most would think.
HABS NOTES: Another injured defenseman?
Most will tell you that if Hal Gill doesn't play tonight, it's not that big of a deal. A big, slow, clumsy oaf with almost no scoring touch, probably not a fan favorite amongst Habs fans (and there were boos towards Gill two weeks ago when I visited the Bell Centre for a game). But Gill contributes more than it seems.
He may have the league lead in giveaways, and he may be tied with #8 -8 Mike Komisarek for the league lead in minor penalties, but Gill brings leadership to the Canadiens and a presense to the penalty kill (when he's not in the box), not to mention a big body to block shots and clear the crease. He's been better as of late and even scored a goal on Saturday, albeit against the laughing stock of the league in Vesa Toskala. He's a bigger loss than one would think, and that's not a pun.
Nevertheless, according to Habs Inside/Out, Gill left practice early yesterday after taking a shot to foot. The Habs responded by calling up Mathieu Carle, an unlucky defenseman who has missed several chances at making the Canadiens due to unfortunate injuries. He might get his chance tonight, depending on the status of Hal Gill. If he plays well, the Canadiens have some touch choices coming up. If Gill is healthy and Carle works out, that gives the Canadiens seven healthy defenseman, and an 8th who is on his way back.
Coru Sports has just reported that defenseman Ryan O'Byrne practiced for the first time today, albeit with the team therapist and without a puck, but he could be back within the next two weeks. This is certainly good news for the Habs' ailing blue line and will hopefully be able to jump start the team physically.
Matt D'Agostini still hasn't practice since getting run over by Andrew ''airbus'' Ladd, and Big Georges Laraque still have back problems (surprise surprise). No word on who the starting goalie will be. Price would make sense, since he had the better game this weekend, despite a loss, but Martin's track record leads me to believe he'll go with the goalie with the extra W in his stats, and that's Jaroslav Halak. I'll update with line-up notes later today.
UPDATE 11:45 AM: Habs Inside/Out confirms Price starts in nets, and Carle is officially in for Gill, you may benefit from a rest!
FINAL PREDICTION: Habs 4 - Thrashers 1
Goals from Metropolit, Bergeron, Gionta and Plekanec. Enjoy the game!
MIKE KOMISAREK FUNNY PICTURE OF THE DAY