Canadiens-Leafs: Kostitsyn Out, Laraque In?

March 21, 2009

by Kevin van Steendelaar… Despite being the Montreal Canadiens’ leading goal scorer this season, Andrei Kostitsyn will likely be in the press box for Saturday’s tilt with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Kostitsyn has been struggling to find the score sheet in the last 12 games despite being placed with different linemates by former coach Guy Carbonneau and interim coach Bob Gainey.

At the Canadiens’ afternoon practice today, Max Pacioretty took Kostitsyn’s place on the line with Alex Kovalev and Tomas Plekanec.

Matt D’Agostini was also an extra skater and will likely join Andrei as an observer. Ryan O’Byrne and Mathieu Dandineault will also miss the game.

Georges Laraque practiced on a line with Gregory Stewart and Glen Metopolit. There was speculation that the Montreal enforcer’s season was over after a recurring back injury, and he could still be a game-time decision by Gainey.

The Canadiens’ defensive pairings at practice were Mathieu Schneider and Andrei Markov, Roman Hamrlik and Patrice Brisebois, and Mike Komisarek and Josh Gorges.

Jaroslav Halak will get the start in goal.

Maple Leafs-Canadiens: A Priceless Performance in Montreal

February 8, 2009

by Kevin van Steendelaar… Carey Price was not scheduled to start tonight in Montreal, but a sudden case of the flu from back-up Jaroslav Halak gave coach Guy Carbonneau no choice but to start his struggling No. 1 goaltender.

Price was clearly not prepared for the game and nor were his teammates as the lost 5-2 to their long-time rival Toronto Maple Leafs.

Once Georges Laraque enticed the home crowd early in the first period by delivering a series of left hooks to the Leafs’ Brad May, the real game could begin.

Price did look sharp in the first period, facing 18 Leafs shots while his teammates only managed five against the Leafs’ Vesa Toskala.

But the Leafs would manage the lone goal of the period. Their first round pick of 2009, Luke Schenn, scored his first NHL goal, beating a partially screened Price with a wrist shot from the face-off circle that went through Price’s legs.

Toskala, recently criticized by both his coach and general manager, knew this was a must win game and played just that.

Facing 15 Canadiens shots in the second period, his only miss was on a Canadiens five-on-three power play when Matt D’Agostini scored at 19:35.

Nikolai Kulemin would put the Leafs ahead again shortly after, catching Price to far in his crease and beating him with a long shot. It was one of only five shots Price faced in he second period.

Jason Blake would beat Price twice in the third period, going glove high on both occasions where he young Canadiens goaltender looked out of position.

Tom Kostopoulus would cash in a rebound for the Canadiens at 11:02 but that was as close as it would get for Montreal.

The Leafs’ Jeff Finger would catch Price napping on a face-off with just over a minute remaining to put it well out of reach.

Although the Canadiens defence played poorly in front of him by allowing 41 Leafs shots, the bulk of the attention in the loss turned to Price.

“I can’t go like this the whole year. There’s no way,” Price told the media post-game. “I won’t allow it. I’ll find a way around it.”

“It doesn’t fall on one guy, ” said defenceman Mike Komisarek, who put it more as a whole team breakdown as opposed to an individual failure.

“It falls on six defencemen, 12 forwards. It falls on every single guy in this locker room. We still have some time to figure it out and get on the same page.”

Coach Carbonneau was a little more critical on his goaltender.

“Where do you want me to start?” he answered in a frustrated tone to a reporter when asked what he didn’t like about Price. “He gave five goals.”

“Today was not a good defensive game,” Carbonneau later added.

“Right now we’re struggling on every front. It seems to be (either) not being able to score goals or tough times scoring goals and every time we make mistakes it’s in our net.”

The Canadiens now head out on a six-game road trip starting Monday in Calgary. It will be a true test for the Habs as they have lost their last five road games.