How long has it been since the Montreal Canadiens played a game? Too long...six days in fact. Their 5-4 comeback win last Saturday against the New York Islanders is almost a distant memory by now.
Guy Carbonneau and the Habs spent the week practicing, training and talking with the media. In Montreal, this is what happens during a week off:
Last Sunday was a rest day for players and coaches. The team probably spent the day wondering what exactly had happened the night before, when the Canadiens dug themselves into a 1-4 hole against the Islanders before battling back.
On Monday, all players were called into the gym for an afternoon workout. Alex Kovalev was quoted by RDS as saying he did not enjoy the long breaks between games. He said it ruined the player's synchronism on the ice. He was probably alluding to Montreal's 6-4 loss to the Anaheim Ducks after a similar break three weeks ago.
The team took to the ice on Tuesday for a full practice. The day was highlighted by the U.S. elections in which defenseman Mike Komisarek and forward Chris Higgins participated as eligible voters. Both players are from Long Island, New York.
Due to the slow week, the media resorted to interviewing fourth line players such as Georges Laraque. He took advantage of the spotlight to point out that he did not enjoy fighting per se, but understands his role on the team.
Laraque also jumped on the "Sean Avery bashing" bandwagon, saying he would never play on the same team as the Dallas Stars super-pest. Avery was publicly reprimanded by teammate Mike Modano for his role in an ugly game against the Boston Bruins.
Wednesday turned into a showcase for the talent this Montreal team has. The All-Star ballots were published and the Canadiens, along with the Detroit Red Wings, lead the league with six players each on the ballot.
One of the nominees, Montreal winger Alex Tanguay, was also named the Canadiens Player of the Month for October. He finished first in voting ahead of fellow All-Star nominees Carey Price and Andrei Markov.
Montreal started focusing on Thursday for their upcoming clash with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Coach Carbonneau announced that Jaroslav Halak would be starting in the nets.
He also confirmed the badly kept secret that Chris Higgins would replace Guillaume Latendresse on the Saku Koivu-Alex Tanguay line. Latendresse will complete an interesting trio with Robert Lang and Sergei Kostitsyn.
Against Columbus, the Habs will face the player who almost single-handedly eliminated them from last year's playoffs, ex-Flyer R.J. Umberger. Other players to watch are Hull, Quebec native Derick Brassard, and winger Rick Nash. Brassard leads the team in points. Nash is off to a slow start but has led the Blue Jackets in goals scored for four straight years.
It seems the secret to beating Columbus will be to score first. So far this year Columbus has never won a game when they trailed after the first period. In contrast, Montreal has never lost this season if they lead the game after one.
Today is game day. The Canadiens will most likely face rookie goaltender Steve Mason, as both starter Pascal Leclaire and backup Fredrik Norrena are injured. Mason won his NHL debut Wednesday night against the Edmonton Oilers. Columbus is 2-0-2 in their last four games.
Carey Price is slotted to start in Montreal's next game, tomorrow night's much anticipated scrum with the Toronto Maple Leafs.