CBC organizes a contest every year rewarding the most hockey-dedicated Canadian city. From Nova Scotia to North Bay, the lucky winner hosts a preseason game between two NHL teams.
This year's winner is Roberval, in the province of Quebec.
The Montreal Canadiens, the Buffalo Sabres, a few former Canadiens players, Youppi, Gary Bettman, the CBC team—was that a Bruins flag with Don Cherry?—and the Stanley Cup were then in Roberval to please thousands of hockey fans.
Numerous kids had their chance to see the players at the morning practice. "They are bigger than on TV!" said one. "I am happy to see Steve Begin for real," said another.
The Buffalo Sabres also took part in bringing smiles to the fans. "When we arrived in town and saw all those kids waiting for the Canadiens, we decided to stop and greet them. Our French players went to talk to them," recounted Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff.
About 1,000 fans attented the game, and 5,000 others watched it outside on a giant screen.
David Desharnais and Olivier Fortier were added to the lineups, while Roman Hamrlik did not play due to an injury from last game.
Kostitsyn - Plekanec - Kostitsyn
Paccioretty - Maxwell - Tanguay
Flynn - Lapierre - Glumac
Desharnais - Fortier - Aubin
Weber - Gorges
O'Byrne - Anderson
Henry - Dandenault (with Hamrlik on the sideline)
Tomas Plekanec scored twice for the Habs, with Andrei Kostitsyn bringing the winning goal. The last two goals for Montreal have been shorthanded ones. On the Sabres' side, Derek Roy and Nathan Gerbe—with a beautiful goal—marked the scoring sheet in the third period.
Marc Denis played the entire game, as Jaroslav Halak took a shot on the shoulder by Max Lapierre during the warm-up. He made 19 saves, while Patrick Lalime stopped 12 attempts before leaving his net to Adam Dennis for the third period.
A whole new roster should start the game tomorrow in Detroit. Players such as Carey Price and Alexei Kovalev are among those who will make the trip to face the Cup-defending champions.
Updates on Saku Koivu and Georges Laraque's injuries should be given over time. Meanwhile, as the Canadiens do not want to take any risk on Halak's shoulder, we should expect to see Marc Denis as Price's backup tomorrow.
Alex Tanguay was used at the blue line on the power play, while most of the rookies got a taste of penalty killing.
Weber was also on the power play a couple of times. The Swiss player said he is looking forward to be the next Mark Streit, his idol. He seems to be doing well on the blue line.
Ryan O'Byrne didn't have a great game, and took a penalty in the third period. But he is establishing himself as a strong defenseman—which will give players like Dandenault a hard time finding a place on the bench.
A little anecdote—as you may have noticed during the game, the penalty box was really small. The players had to stand on the bench at first, close the door, and then sit down. It was cute. The Arena has a capacity of 1,000 people, and must have felt different from the Bell Center or HSBC.
Marc Denis impressed a couple of times tonight. Without taking anything away from Jaroslav Halak, I have the feeling we will hear about him.
Last but not least, Max Paccioretty is starting to look like a power forward. It should be exciting to see how his evolution goes—in Hamilton, I mean.