Game Day: Canucks Visit Hurting Habs

The Montreal Canadiens will look to rebound from 3 straight losses tonight when they receive the Vancouver Canucks, but it will be a daunting task. After losing to three teams they should have faired better against, the Habs will face the closest thing to a powerhouse you'll currently find in the league. What's worse, they'll have to do it without their leading goalscorer, Mike Cammalleri. They'll also have to do it with Paul Mara (upper body injury), Jaroslav Spacek (also out with an upper body injury), Andrei Kostitsyn (on the IR after surgery), and maybe even Matt D'Agostini, who was just called up.


We all know about the loss of Cammalleri, who left Saturday's afternoon game against the sens with what looked to be a knee injury. While no official word has come from the Canadiens, TSN has reported that Cammalleri will miss 6 to 8 weeks, which means a minimum of 14 games, which could very well mean the end of the Canadiens 2010 playoff hopes. Other sources in Montreal are more optimistic, citing a minimum absence of only 4 weeks, which would bring Cammalleri back just after the Olympic break.

Whatever the case, an MCL injury hurts like hell. I sprained my MCL 3 weeks ago, and although it's pretty much fully healed, it takes you off balance, off your feet and off your normal routine.

To get a little more specific, the Medial Collateral Ligament is located on the inner part of the knee joint and serves to stabilize your knee when in motion by limiting the mobility of the knee joint. An injury occurs to this ligament when the knee moves in a direction it's not supposed to, which is exactly what happened to Cammalleri on Saturday.

There are three grades to an MCL tear. The first is an incomplete tear. The tendon is still in mobilitiy, symptoms are minimal and patients feel pain when they put pressure on their leg/knee. Recovery time can be as quick as 1 to 2 weeks for athletes.

Grade II of an MCL tear are more severe, but still incomplete tears of the tendon. Pain and swelling is worse, and the knee may be unstable with sudden movements (and this is the injury that I had). Recovery time is 3 to 4 weeks for people in shape.

Grade III is the most severe MCL injury, a complete tear. Pain is severe, bending of the knee is near impossible, and the knee is unstable and may give out if pressure is put on it. This injury usually requires a knee brace, and recovery time could be upwards of 6 weeks.

Surgery is rarely required for this injury, and most treatments including staying off your feet, icing the injury and medication if there is a lot of swelling. Habs fans can breathe a sigh of relief, as clearly Cammalleri did not break anything, and most likely will not require surgery. A dedicated athlete can return quickly from this injury depending on the severity. Even if he has the most severe type of MCL injury listed here, he'll be back shortly after the Olympics.

Still, it is a tough blow for Habs fans and the team's playoffs hopes, especially if Bob Gainey doesn't make a significant move to replace the sniper in the short term. Tonight is the Canadiens first test, in that regard.

Cammalleri will speak to the media soon, so we'll have more on his status then.



- No word on Andrei Kostitsyn's recovery yet. The Canadiens have been fairly secretive with his status, but he will be out at least until the Olympic break. Hopefully he doesn't do anything stupid and try to come back to play for Belarus.

- Paul Mara skated on his own today and probably won't dress for tonight's game.

- Jaroslav Spacek will miss tonight's game, although no word on the exact nature of his injury.

- Matt D'Agostini was called up from his conditioning stint in Hamilton yesterday, where he did absolutely nothing to prove he deserved to come back. Now he has the flu, but there is no word on whether or not he will dress tonight. If the Canadiens are going to recall someone to replace him, they will have to do it very soon to avoid another Ryan White fiasco.


I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I'm happy about how the Canadiens are playing, or the direction the organization is taking, but what good is getting all uppity about it going to do? Cammalleri is out, that's something we have to deal with. He's a hard player to replace.

I could whine about how Martin is forcing offensive players to play a defensive, laid back style, but that's not going to change the way he coaches.

We could complain about Price and Halak, but they've done nothing to deserve scrutiny.

The fact remains that this team is mediocre, and it's up to the Molsons to finally make the changes. Until they do, we just have to sit back and try to enjoy some hockey, because this is the best that we're going to get. Just hope they can win a few games like they did against the Devils and Rangers, and choose a proper team to cheer for when the playoffs come around. In my mind, the disappointment has already set in. But I won't let it hinder my ability to enjoy whatever hockey I get to watch until the end of the season, and neither should anyone else.


Despite all these injuries, there is still a game tonight. And it's against a very tough opponent.

The Canucks have won their last 7 games, including a come-from-behind 5-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night. The Nucks were trailing the Leafs by 3 goals. If you can believe it, they actually drove Roberto Luongo from the net, bringing in former Leaf Andrew Raycroft, who backstopped the Canucks to their victory. Still on hook for his buyout, the Leafs actually paid for Andrew Raycroft to beat them.

The loss led to well documented player personnel changes in Toronto. But the ignored story here is how good the Canucks might actually, going into game 2 of their ridiculous 14 game road trip. You have to think that they're feeling confident about tonight's game, and that they could very easily extend their win streak to 8 games tonight.

The Habs will have a tough time containing the hottest line in the league. Alex Burrows and the Sedins have combined for 178 points in 144 games. Daniel Sedin missed 18 of those games, but has still managed to put up 16 goals and 51 assists in 36 games. Henrik Sedin leads the league in points and Burrows has 25 goals. If that wasn't enough for the Canadiens to handle, they still have to deal with Ryan Kessler, Mikael Samuelsson, Mason Raymond, Pavol Demitra, and even Christian Ehrhoff and Alex Edler on the back end.

But the Habs know this all too well, the 7-1 loss in Vancouver in early October still fresh in their minds. Oddsmakers will tell you that this game won't be as embarrassing for the Canadiens, but you certainly never know. With many regulars out of the line-up and the Canadiens struggling, it's going to be a challenge.


*Note: Injured players are omitted from stat leaders.

Goals: Gionta (14) H.Sedin/Burrows (25)
Assists: Plekanec (41) H.Sedin (53)
Points: Plekanec (54) H.Sedin (78)
Plus/Minus: Gorges/Plekanec (+3) Burrows (+27)
Time on Ice: Markov (24:02 per game) Ehrhoff (22:39 per game)
PIMs: Gill (53) Rypien (93)
Shots: Plekanec (136) Samuelsson (162)
SVP: Halak (.927) Luongo (.920)
GAA: Halak (2.45) Raycroft (2.18)
Record: Halak (14-8-2 25GP) Luongo (29-14-2 47GP)
Injuries: Andrei Kostitsyn (knee, 6 weeks)
Paul Mara (upper body, DTD)
Jaroslav Spacek (upper body, DTD)
Mike Cammalleri (MCL, between 4 and 8 weeks)
Michael Grabner (ankle, indefinitely)
Kevin Bieksa (ankle, indefinitely)
Alex Bolduc (shoulder, indefinitely)
Willie Mitchell (concussion, indefinitely)
Sami Salo (groin, probably for tonight)
Last 10: 3-4-3, lost 3 7-2-1, Won 7
Standings: 25-25-6, T9th, 56Pts, 56GP 34-18-2, 1st NW, 70PTS, 54GP
GF/GA per game: 2.48GF, 28th/ 2.68GA, 12th 3.26GF, 3rd/ 2.41GA, 5th
PP/PK %: 25.6%, 2nd / 84.0%, 7th 21.4%, 5th / 81.6%, 15th


The Vancouver Canucks are strong almost entirely across the board, other than their surprisingly mediocre penalty kill. If the Habs have any chance of winning, it's with their 2nd ranked powerplay. But with their inability to draw penalties, and with their number one sniper on the shelf (taking out all of Cammy's stats was painful), it's a daunting task.

Simply put, they're going to have to get excellent goaltending from Carey Price (who's likely to start), and guys like Gionta, Pouliot, Plekanec and Gomez are going to need to pick up their game and the slack in Cammalleri's absense.

But a win in this game is unlikely.

FINAL PREDICTION: Canucks 5 - Habs 3

I'll give the Habs the benefit of the doubt in the goalscoring department, but there's little to no change they win this game.

Try to enjoy it regardless!