Habs host Caps; Good news on Injury front

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Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals visit the Bell Centre tonight for a highly anticipated game against the Montreal Canadiens, only a week removed from the Habs' 3-2 victory in Washington last Friday.

Only a few months ago, rumors were circulating around the hockey world that the Habs would be playing this game at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, which could house up to 70,000 screaming Canadiens fans.

Unfortunately, thanks to the Montreal Alouettes' option to use the "Big O" for their Eastern final game in the CFL (which they did, in last week's 56-18 shallacking of the BC Lions in front of 50,000 fans), the Canadiens' wouldn't have had time to build a regulation hockey rink.

It's truly a shame, since the game would have probably been played with no roof, giving the Habs somewhat of an outdoor game. Moreover, it would have been ironic to host the Washington Capitals in the former home of the Montreal Expos, which were moved to Washington a few years ago. Nevermind the atmosphere would have been incredible.

There is still a game at the Bell Centre, however, and despite injury troubles on both sides of the rink, it's still shaping up to be a pretty good game.

Alexander Ovechkin will be in the line-up, biting the bullet once again after a questionable hit on Patrick Kaleta earlier in the weak. Moreover, the Caps leading scorer (17 goals, 27 points), will be looking for revenge after being taken out of the game by solid defensive work from Jaroslav Spacek and Roman Hamrlik last Friday, and he'll be looking to make up some of the difference in points he lost after missing two weeks to injury earlier in the month. Second game against the Habs in a week? Controversy surrounding the Kaleta hit? Bell Centre crowd? Yup, I'd look out for Ovechkin tonight.

For more on the Habs, check out Steve Kerley's scouting report, posted on Habs Inside/Out (where else!).

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INJURY RELIEF

As for the Habs, they'll be looking to get back on the winning side of things after dropping a 3-1 decision to the Pens Wednesday night. Things aren't all bad for the Canadiens, however, as they received some very positive news on Thursday, when Andrei Markov hit the ice in Brossard for the first time since he was injured on October 1st. Markov is still a way's away from returning to the line-up, but he hinted at a possible return very early in the new year. We discussed whether or not Markov is speeding up his return for the Olympics or not, but if he's even close to 100%, I'll take him back in the line-up in a heartbeat.

In other (good) news, Jaroslav Spacek will be returning to the line-up tonight, but I worry that he isn't 100% either. Habs Inside/Out is reporting that the Canadiens will dress 7 defensemen tonight, with Jay Leach playing on the 4th line with Kyle Chipchura and James T Kir-- err, Wyman. This is a move we haven't seen since Guy Carbonneau was coaching the team, and you can bet that Jacques Martin wouldn't dress a defenseman as a forward unless he has to. That leads me to believe that we won't be seeing the 24 minutes of ice time Spacek has gotten used to playing this year.

Spacek has played like a hero for the Habs this season. He only has 7 points in 23 games (on pace for a weak 24 points for the usually offensive defenseman), but playing alongside Roman Hamrlik he's been a fine replacement on that top due for the Habs. With him and Hamrlik being matched up against opposing teams top units, the void left by Markov hasn't hurt as much, as least not defensively.

Expect the Habs to try and lock things down tonight, especially with a lot of forwards still a while away from a return. Matt D'Agostini skated today but won't play tonight, and while TSN is speculating that Scott Gomez is close to a return, he's doubtful for tonight.

Projected line-up for tonight:

Cammalleri - Plekanec - A. Kostitsyn
Pacioretty - Metropolit - Moen
Pyatt - Lapierre - White
Leach - Chipchura - Wyman

Hamrlik - Spacek
Gorges - O'Byrne
Bergeron - Mara

Carey Price, deservedly, will get another start tonight between the pipes.

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STATS

-- HABS CAPS
Goals: Cammalleri (12) Ovechkin (17)
Assists: Plekanec (19) Green (22)
Points: Plekanec (24) Ovechkin (27)
Pluys/Minus: Cammalleri (+10) Ovechkin (+11)
Time on Ice: Hamrlik (24:55 per game) Green(24:54 per game)
PIMs: Mara(37) Ovechkin (29)
Shots: Cammalleri(86) Ovechkin (104)
Injuries: Markov (ankle)
D'Agostini (concussion)
Gill (foot)
Gionta (foot)
Pouliot (wrist)
Gomez (groin)
Laraque (suspension)
Kostitsyn (foot)
Knuble (pinky)
Gordon (back)
Semin (wrist)
Laing (jaw)
Morrison (head)
Poti (upper body)

FINAL PREDICTION: Habs 2 - Caps 1
Cammy and Bergeron for the Habs, Ovechkin for the Caps.

Enjoy the game,

Prax
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