Despite an ugly loss to the Rangers the other night - Cristobal Huet's first loss in regulation since December 20th - the bookies still like the Habs against the Islanders. This article notes that Chris Higgins, who hasn't scored much lately with just 2 goals in his last 13 - has a chance to break out against his hometown club, against whom he's had great success, with seven goals in eight games.
The Peoria sports world is looking forward to seeing Carey Price battle Hannu Toivonen in an AHL tilt tomorrow, as the Bulldogs arrive to face the Rivermen. The writer bills it as a contest between up and coming future netminding stars, but Canadiens fans will be keeping an eye on it more to see if Carey Price can rediscover the form that got him into the NHL last fall. His play has gradually eroded over the course of the season. In his last game, he was roughed up for 6 goals on just 13 shots by the Rochester Americans.
Globe and Mail sports-media watcher William Houston voices a sentiment that will gratify many a Hab fan in an article called "Time For Hockey Night to Trade the Leafs". Houston suggests that HNIC should probably be featuring first-overall Ottawa and 5th-place Montreal instead of cellar-dwelling Toronto. His numbers suggest that the CBC's usual defense of its programming - that the Leafs get far higher ratings than any other team - is certainly exaggerated, and probably a self-fulfilling prophecy. The other night, with Toronto out of the conference, the Ottawa game on HNIC drew over 900,000 viewers, only about 200,000 less than Toronto's average: that despite the fact that the Senators get no promotion from HNIC, and that their game was up against two major NFL playoff games on CTV. He provides no numbers for Montreal games, but I find it hard to believe that the Habs would draw fewer viewers than the Sens, so their ratings would have to be nearly equal to the Leafs. If the Leafs have higher TV numbers, it's not by much, and it's probably only because they've been so heavily showcased by the publicly funded CBC for decades. That's no reason to make an entire nation suffer Bob Cole, Harry Neale, Don Cherry, and the rest of the Leafs Praise-Chorus every week, is it? Well, I'm over it: I have RDS, I can understand French, and I and many other Canadiens fans have lost the HNIC habit.
Owner George Gillett is having some cash problems, according to this Ottawa Citizen piece, that may force him to sell off his interest in the Liverpool FC. Now, I'm sure my idea of money-problems is not the same as Gillett's idea, but this is interesting news. Not sure what it might mean for the Habs, but I'll see if I can dig anything else up.
Pat Hickey sets up the Habs-Isles game here. He talks with Chris Higgins, who notes that playing at home means providing tickets for more than 30 people, so that he is essentially playing those games "for free". Higgins isn't concerned about his drop in production lately: he says it's due to playing a different role on a different line, helping "shut down the other team's" stars on a checking line with Lapierre and Ryder. Higgins and Ryder are our checking line? Weren't they our first line last year? How the Habs win games is beyond me sometimes. Hickey says Huet will start, despite getting mercy-pulled against the Rangers, and (drum-roll) Patrice Brisebois is "questionable" for the game with an ankle injury.
The New York Times, no less, has a feature on hometown boys Mike Komisarek and Chris Higgins. Really good read. I scanned it for any hint of them talking about maybe wanting to play in New York - or anywhere but Montreal - in the future, but didn't see anything. These are two guys I want to see in Montreal for life.
In La Presse, Francois Gagnon reports on Chris Higgins's problems scoring, and also on his suggestion that it's due to a change in his assignment. Gagnon has Coach Carbo denying that Higgins is playing a "checking" role: "il a encore la tâche de marquer des buts". Carbo goes on to say - I'm translating - that Higgins is best when he uses his speed and forces the other teams to make mistakes, and less effective when he tries to handle the puck too much or make fancy moves. Gagnon reports that Brisebois is definitely out, to be replaced on D by Streit, who will in turn be replaced by Tom Kostopoulos (to the disappointment of fans who would prefer to see what Corey Locke, a scorer at every level he's played in, can do). Kostopoulos will provided some toughness against an Isles team that tends to goon it up when things aren't going their way.
La Presse also runs this hopeful article, suggesting (once again) that Jose Theodore is finding his game again for the Avalanche.