All Habs Headlines: New Lines, Eller, Gallagher, Around the League, Archambault, Bulldogs

Kovalev and the Panthers visit the Bell Centre Tuesday night (Photo: J Pat Carter, AP)

All Habs Headlines: Monday January 21, 2013

On this day in hockey history… Way back in 1887, legendary Montreal Canadiens netminder Georges Vézina was born in Chicoutimi, Quebec.  Vézina played 190 NHL games – all with Montreal – over nine seasons, winning two Stanley Cups, before dying of tuberculosis in 1926.  Vézina was one of the nine initial inductees when the Hockey Hall of Fame opened in 1945.


 The Monday After: The Canadiens were back at practice this morning after taking the day following their season-opening loss off.  The powerplay was one focus today, with the team working on the same units that finished Saturday night’s matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs, being the following:

Pacioretty – Desharnais – Cole
Markov – Kaberle

Bourque – Plekanec – Gionta
Bouillon/Gorges – Diaz

The other interesting change was the shifting of rookie Alex Galchenyuk to centre.  He lined up between fellow first-year forward Brendan Gallagher and tough guy Brandon Prust.  The shuffle left Lars Eller off a regular line, which is surprising given he didn’t seem to do anything warranting a benching on opening night, but the team may want to audition their 2012 first round pick in the position they drafted him to play, while giving Gallagher a taste of NHL action before a likely return to Hamilton.

The accompanying change saw Rene Bourque – arguably Montreal’s best forward, not that it’s saying much, against the Leafs – return to the Tomas Plekanec line, and a change on defense had Tomas Kaberle playing with Francis Bouillon, while Josh Gorges was paired with Raphael Diaz.

It is a bit curious that coach Michel Therrien stuck with his “first instinct” lines throughout the whole week of training camp, then immediately switches things up after the team dropped a game.  Sitting a young, developing player like Eller isn’t a long-term solution either, with this kind of experimentation normally reserved for preseason contests.  The issue is, in a condensed 48-game calendar, if the club hopes to challenge for a playoff spot, they don’t have much time to lose.  But of course, today was only a practice, and Therrien was non-committal to actual line-up changes for tomorrow night’s game at its conclusion.

Read more: Galchenyuk au centre, Gallagher à l’aile (French)

► Gallagher to make NHL debut? All signs are pointing to first-year pro Brendan Gallagher being in the lineup when the Canadiens meet the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre (tickets are available here.) Gallagher’s size is always a topic of conversation but not something that concerns the Bulldog forward.

“It’ll probably always be something people talk about. It doesn’t bother me. My dad has always told me that my size is my advantage and I believe that. I know people look at me and think I can’t do certain things, but I believe that I need to play the same style that I’ve always played. For me to continue to do that, it’ll be challenge, but I don’t think it’ll be impossible. I need to find new ways to get to the net. It’s a different league, a different challenge, but, overall, the game is still the same. It’s still hockey.” — Brendan Gallagher

Read more: Former Vancouver Giant’s Brendan Gallagher is small in size but big in talent


Kovalev and the Panthers visit the Bell Centre Tuesday night (Photo: J Pat Carter, AP)
Kovalev and the Panthers visit the Bell Centre Tuesday night (Photo: J Pat Carter, AP)

 Around the League: Were you focused solely on the Habs and Leafs this weekend?  Spent your Sunday watching football playoffs instead of the NHL?  We’ve got you covered with some Habs-related stories from opening weekend on the ice.

Alex Kovalev debuted for the Florida Panthers – who are in Ottawa tonight and will be in Montreal tomorrow – with a bang, putting up a goal and two assists while showing nice chemistry with rookie Jonathan Hubderdeau.

The old Finns were flying for Anaheim, as former Hab captain Saku Koivu picked up two assists and 42-year old Teemu Selanne registered two goals in addition to two helpers of his own (becoming the oldest player to record four points in a game since Gordie Howe) as the Ducks spoiled Vancouver’s opener with a 7-3 decision.  Former Hab veteran Sheldon Souray also had a goal and an assist in the win.

In Tampa Bay, training camp darlings Tom Pyatt and Benoit Pouliot were held off the scoresheet in the Lightning’s home opener, but visiting Mike Ribeiro – making his Washington Capitals debut – collected two assists in a losing effort. Pouliot did score his first of the year today against the New York Islanders.

In his first game as an Ottawa Senator, Guillaume Latendresse played more than 15 minutes and was a plus-1, but spent four minutes in the penalty box while being held off the scoresheet.

Read more: Golden Oldies the Soundtrack to Opening Weekend

► Archambault has productive weekend for Volts:  Canadiens’ prospect Olivier Archambault of the Drummondville Voltigeurs picked up his team’s only goal in a 5-1 loss to the Rimouski Océanic this past Friday evening. He followed up that performance less than 24 hours later with his 20th goal of the year and a helper, as the Volts rebounded to beat the Acadie-Bathurst Titan 5-4. In a game that saw a combined 86 shots on goal, six of those belonged to the fourth rounder, and he was rewarded with a first star selection.
“Archambault has been our best forward for the last few games. His success is directly linked to his intensity and determination. The only way he can get a contract with the Canadiens is to prove he has an impeccable work ethic every day,” said Volts’  head coach Mario Duhamel.
‘Dogs Drop Afternoon Decision: For a short while, it seemed the Hamilton Bulldogs might have had an inspiring comeback in them this afternoon.  After falling behind 3-0 before even the six minute mark of the opening period, goals from Louis LeblancZack Stortini, and Joey Tenute evened the scoring.  But it was not to be on this day as the Rochester Americans dominated the rest of the way, notably outshooting the ‘Dogs 12-4 in the third period, en route to a 6-3 victory. The loss was Hamilton’s 5th in a row, though the club had picked up points in its previous two encounters via the shootout.  The defeat also set a dubious team record as it was the ‘Dogs’ 10th consecutive loss on the road.  While the return of NHL hockey should play in the team’s favour, the benefit of weakened opposition has yet to yield any tangible results and Hamilton continues to sit 30th overall in the American Hockey League, now 11 points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

► Gomez close to deal with Sharks: It appears Scott Gomez may be close to signing a contract with the San Jose Sharks, as the disgruntled forward has practiced with the team, donning a Sharks practice jersey.  Nothing is official as of yet, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Gomez sign a value contract like Wade Redden did in St. Louis after being bought out.

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