Habs vs. Preds Update: Gionta Injured, Latendresse Back In.
It seems as though Jacques Martin has finally had enough of struggling forward Guillaume Latendresse, as the young French Canadian player will be watching tonight's game against the Nashville Predators from the Pressbox.
To say that the French Canadian player has underperformed this season is an understatement, as Latendresse has put up but 2 goals and 1 assist in 19 games, with a -4 rating. He's only seen an average of 12 minutes a game this year, and while no one can really expect too much of him playing minimal minutes mostly on a 3rd line, two goals from the player many have categorized as a power forward and a goalscorer, well it simply isn't enough. On pace for a ridiculously low 8 goals and 12 points, Guillaume certainly can't expect to remain an NHL player with these kinds of statistics, certainly not in this city.
While he's seen limited ice time under Jacques Martin's system, he was given more than enough chances to produce and contribute to the team, including stints on top offensive lines. But each time, it seems like he's playing his way back to the 3rd and 4th lines, and back into the arms of his good friend and usual linemate, Maxime Lapierre.
Lapierre hasn't been much better than Latendresse, with only slightly more average ice time and a -6 rating, but he has 1 goal and 4 assists through 19 games, and seemed to play well next to Tomas Plekanec for a few games on the second line. Needless to say, his chances may be running out as well, and he could very well find himself next to his little buddy Guillaume if he doesn't start upping his game.
While benching Latendresse may be nothing more than an attempt to send a message to the disappointing winger, one has to hope that Latendresse will take it serious, especially considering the player replacing him (Kyle Chipchura) has stats even worse than him, and especially with Andrei Kostitsyn, who hasn't been all that much better, dressing tonight.
All that being said, the French language sports talk shows are going to be interesting tonight. They were upset when Latendresse and Lapierre were benched for a period, and their reaction to Latendresse sitting in the pressbox in lieu of an English speaking Canadian or a Belorussian, well, it's a potentially flammable situation in a time where the media doesn't have too many controversies to stir about the team.
The only other line-up notes are that Jaro Spacek will be a game-time decision. The defenseman left Thursday's game in the 3rd period with a bruised leg. Matt Carle would take his place.
Carey Price is between the pipes, and he looks to build some sort of a win streak, with the Canadiens playing a pretty bad team in the Predators.
Sitting in 12th place in the west, the Preds have a league-worst 37 goals for. They only have two players with double-digit points (JP Dumont with 11 and Patric Hornqvist with 10), so the Canadiens will be looking to take advantage of a team which has had trouble scoring goals, and build on their 4-2 victory over the Coyotes Thursday night.
Finally, for the second game in a row, the Canadiens will be meeting up against another former Hab, as Francis Bouillon will be looking for a solid game against his former team.
Habs @ Preds at 8PM tonight on RDS, hopefully it will be entertaining enough to keep my attention over the free UFC 105 even on Spike, with Couture vs. Vera in the main event.
FINAL PREDICTION: Habs 5 - Preds 1