Habs beat Jackets, look ahead to Pens; Desharnais in, Kostitsyn out?

The Montreal Canadiens roll into Pittsburgh tonight having accumulated 7 out of a possible 8 points in their last four games. They roll into Pittsburgh the victors in their game last night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, coming back twice from one goal deficits and scoring 5 goals in only their 3rd regulation victory of the season. They roll into Pittsburgh with a burning hot goaltending in Carey Price, who's posted an impressive 5-3-1 record in November, putting up a GAA of 2.39 and an SVP of .928.

The Canadiens roll into Pittsburgh with Tomas Plekanec their leading scorer (24 points, including 19 assists), good for 18th place in league scoring, ahead of some big offensive talent such as Martin St. Louis, Sidney Crosby, Jarome Iginla, Pat Kane, and many more. They roll into Pittsburgh with Mike Cammalleri their leading goal scorer (12 goals), good for 15th place in the league. He's ahead of Sidney Crosby, Pat Kane, Bobby Ryan, and others, and has but one goal less than Ilya Kovalchuk, two less than Malone, Nash, Marleau and Kopitar.

One would say that things aren't looking so bad for the Habs, and they don't. Problem is, they haven't played as well as their record has shown, consistently getting outshot and outplayed by the competition. Add to that all the injuries that keep piling on, and the Habs are starting to look more and more like the Hamilton Bulldogs than an NHL team. On another forum, someone came up with 43% as the percentage of Habs' regulars that are sitting on the sidelines, including two thirds of the Habs top line, as well as three regular defensemen.

If that wasn't hard enough to swallow. you can add Andrei Kostitsyn to the list, as he was caught limping after last night's 5-3 victory over the Blue Jackets at the Bell Centre, having blocked a shot. He will be a game time decision, but the Habs have called up David Desharnais, who impressed many during September's training camp, as a possible replacement.

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DAVID DESHARNAIS

Desharnais is a small forward, 5'6'' 175lbs, and even worse, a small center, but he plays with drive and consistency that has gotten him further in his career that one would have ever though. Even coming out of back-to-back 100 point seasons in the QMJHL to finish his junior career, Desharnais struggled to find a job at the professional level. Posting 374 points in games over 4 years with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens (including 126 goals), Desharnais couldn't even find a job in the AHL, signing with the Canadiens' ECHL affiliate, the Cincinnati Cyclones. He finally made the Bulldogs last season, playing 77 games and picking up 58 points.

He came into training camp this year this a goal, to make the Montreal Canadiens. He almost did enough at camp to make the team, but when the season started, the Habs had a lot of older forwards that were going to be on the team, and there wasn't that much space for a rookie. Add in a foot injury that led to Desharnais missing 13 games this year, and he almost didn't have a chance.

But now, with so many injuries, Desharnais is likely to get his shot. He'll have some familiar faces on the team, as the Canadiens are also likely to dress Hamilton forwards JT Wyman, Ryan White, Tom Pyatt and Sergei Kostitsyn, but if he ends up playing he will be looking to make a statement, and prove to the coach and the GM that while he was the last one called up, he shouldn't be the first one sent down.

Of course, this could have all been useless of Andrei is good to go.

(Kudos to Eric Engels of Hockeybuzz for breaking the story on Twitter, even before RDS did!)

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THE PENS ARE STILL STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS

It's incredible to think that last week, the Pens had so many injuries in defense, that in one game they could have only had only one NHL caliber defenseman playing (Marc Eaton). Thankfully for the Pens, Sergei Gonchar is now back in the line-up, but last year's Stanley Cup Champs are still missing Alex Goligoski, Jay McKee, and Kristopher Letang (not to mention Chris Kunitz and Tyler Kennedy up front). Incredibly, despite all these injuries, and their 5-5-0 record in their last ten, the Pens have managed to stay atop the Eastern conference with 32 points in 24 games. Marc-André Fleury hasn't been as good as he could be, and Sidney Crosby isn't even a point-per-game player this year, but they're rolling along and getting contributions from all their players.

Either way, the Pittsburgh Penguins, healthy or not, are a scary opponent for the Montreal Canadiens. Last time the Habs visited Pittsburgh, they were on the receiving end of a 6-1 shallacking, and it could very well happen again tonight if Price (probable to start tonight's game) doesn't play like he has over the last 6 games, and if the aforementioned Plekanec and Cammalleri don't carry the offense, like they have since the start of the season.

It's an understatement to say that the Habs are luck to be in a 5-way tie for 7th place in the east, but luck has nothing to do with it when it comes to the Pens. They're that good, and on the road, with so many injuries, the Habs are going to have to be extra careful if they don't want the same result from last month's encounter.

Look out for line-up news as it is made available, and enjoy the game tonight!

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STATS

-- HABS PENS
Goals: Cammalleri (12) Crosby(11)
Assists: Plekanec (19) Malkin(15)
Points: Plekanec (24) Crosby(23)
Pluys/Minus: Cammalleri (+11) Goligoski (+11)
Time on Ice: Hamrlik (25:03 per game) Gonchar(24:50per game)
PIMs: Mara(37) McKee(42)

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MEDIA ROUND-UP

- Pat Hickey's award-winning article in today's gazette: Habs take Jackets to Cleaners>.

- Hickey again on Andrei Kostitsyn's injury> and David Desharnais's subsequent Limo ride from Hamilton to Pittsburgh. If anyone saw last week's episode of the Office, they'll find that funny.

- TSN's game preview, RDS's game preview.

- Eric Engels' blog.

- Montreal Businessman bidding for Phoenix Coyotes.

- Finally, inverview with Kyle Roussel on the Latendresse trade. Good read.

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Enjoy the game, 7PM start on RDS!

Prax
www.thecheckingline.com
www.twitter.com/thecheckingline

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