Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Your Canadiens for November 16, 2011

Updates prior to tonight's game against the Carolina Hurricanes.

- Hal Gill is expected to again be out of action tonight with a bad virus.

- Jaroslav Spacek was hurt against the Buffalo Sabres and will not play tonight. To replace him, the Canadiens called up defenseman Frederic St. Denis from the Hamilton Bulldogs. St. Denis, 25, had a solid training camp and is considered amongst Hamilton's best two-way blueliners. Most recently, the 5'11" rearguard had a goal and an assist in Sunday's win over Binghamton. But it certainly goes to show how little NHL-ready depth is presently available to Montreal. Who would have imagined that the team would have to play a game with all of Yannick Weber, Raphael Diaz, Alexei Emelin, and St. Denis amongst the top 6 d-men. Even when you add P.K. Subban and Josh Gorges to round the group out, the total NHL experience of the lot is just 579 games played.

While this is far from an ideal situation, I'm quite curious to see how St. Denis will look. Neither Emelin nor Diaz has been "ripping it up" lately. So if St. Denis can play solid, mistake-free hockey, there may even be an opportunity for him to pass one or the other of the two rookies in the depth chart. Unlikely, sure, but at this point I'l ready to look at anything that might help the team's often confused play in its own end.

Per my Habs historian projects, in making his NHL debut, St. Denis will tonight become the 799th player to play for the Canadiens in a regular season game in the team's history. Wonder who # 800 will be!

- Andrei Kostitsyn is not practicing with the team, and thus is expected to miss another game this evening. The Canadiens should, however, get Mike Cammalleri back after he missed Monday night's game.

- Also in Monday's game, Andreas Engqvist seemed to suffer a minor injury that will keep him out of action. Though, realistically, he would likely have been sat to make room for Cammalleri's return in any case.

- Andrei Markov joined the team for their light practice yesterday, wearing a non-contact jersey of course. He even stayed around to share a few words with journalists afterwards with his usual dry humour. Still no timetable for his return, though.

- Tonight's game will be a big one for Erik Cole, a forward who after a slowish first few games now makes up an important part of Montreal's most productive line of late with Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais. Despite a brief stint in Edmonton (and excluding the lockout), Cole had played for the Hurricanes in every one of his 9 NHL seasons prior to this one, and thus will be facing off against many good friends.

It's also a big one for Lars Eller, who will be participating in his 100th NHL game.

- Down in the AHL, the Hamilton Bulldogs lost 3-2 in a shootout to the Peoria Rivermen last night. With an injury to Garrett Stafford and the call-up of St. Denis, the 'Dogs recalled both Olivier Dame-Malka and T.J. Fast from the ECHL. Dame-Malka, in his second AHL game this season, recorded his first AHL point, assisting on a Philip DeSimone goal. Michael Blunden had the other tally for Hamilton, while Dany Masse was the only one of 5 shooters able to beat Ben Bishop during the shootout.

- Sticking with prospects, highly-touted Michael Bournival returned to the line-up from injury for the Shawninigan Cataractes - the team he captains - last night. Bournival was held off the scoresheet and finished a -2 in a 5-1 loss, playing only his 8th game of the season after missing about a month of action. In those 8 games, Bournival has tallied 10 goals and 13 points.

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