Kobasew misses practice
WILMINGTON - The Canadiens are in town tonight, their playoff spot (considered a birthright throughout Quebec) still uncertain and their defense a patchwork of worry with the various bangs and bruises suffered recently by Andrei Markov and Mathieu Schneider.
We would supply an address for all Greater Bostonians to forward all the get-well cards north, but why put such a strain on the Canadian postal system?
The Bruins, meanwhile, are sitting at the top of the Eastern Conference with the No. 1 seed they locked up with last Saturday's 1-0 rub-out of the Rangers. But like the Habs, they have an expanding list of injured bodies, which yesterday added Chuck Kobasew, the pugnacious right winger who was forced to skip practice after going the distance in Tuesday night's 3-2 loss in Ottawa.
As expected, coach Claude Julien offered little information about the nature of Kobasew's injury and then deftly tiptoed around labeling the winger's absence a "maintenance day" - the coach's standard term for giving a guy a day off.
"Yeah, it's a maintenance day," said Julien, accenting his words with a slight shrug of his shoulders following the workout, "but having said that, he's like the other two [injured] guys . . . he's day to day."
The rest of the injured include winger P.J. Axelsson and defensemen Dennis Wideman and Andrew Ference, all of whom remained off the ice and unavailable to the media. No telling how many of them, if any, would be available if the playoffs were to begin, say, this weekend. And certainly no telling who will be able to pull on a Black-and-Gold sweater when the second season begins a week from tonight on Causeway Street.
The Canadiens, meanwhile, appear destined to claim the No. 7 or 8 seed and need but 1 point tonight to ensure that they'll get one or the other. Montreal general manager Bob Gainey fired Guy Carbonneau as coach March 9, took over the bench himself with the club's record 35-24-7, then just 2 points ahead of the ninth-place Carolina Hurricanes.
The Habs have gone 6-5-3 under Gainey's tutelage, barely remaining in contention for the final playoff spot. Gainey, though, finally figured out that his club's best shot at winning was to group skilled forwards Saku Koivu, Alex Tanguay, and Alexei Kovalev on the same line. Prior to getting shut out in a 3-1 loss to the Rangers Tuesday night, they went a sizzling 15-21 -36 over seven games, all but saving Les Glorieux from falling out of the postseason mix.
Meanwhile, it appears Schneider, in need of shoulder surgery, is done for the year, while Markov has a bad left knee that might need until the end of this month to get better.
The Bruins, working with a comfort factor they have rarely experienced prior to the playoffs over the last two decades, only need to get up and down the ice tonight without injury. They're in the playoffs as the top dogs in the East, and await the identity of their sparring partner.
Would it help the Black and Gold to know who is on their dance card?
"No, I don't really think so," said Julien. "I mean, every team knows every team pretty well. You don't have to do much scouting to know how teams are going to play. I think we have a good idea about what Montreal does, and a good grasp on Florida. Same thing with the Rangers."
Blake Wheeler-Marc Savard-Phil Kessel
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Michael Ryder
Shawn Thornton-Stephane Yelle-Byron Bitz
Mark Recchi-Patrice Bergeron
Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez (the loser in Ottawa) were in the nets.
Unlike the day before Tuesday's game in Ottawa, Julien didn't offer who will be in net against the Canadiens, and he wouldn't offer much about how he'll use Thomas and Fernandez the rest of the way.
"Let's put it this way," Julien said. "You'll probably see both of them."
The pairings on defense:
Zdeno Chara-Aaron Ward
Mark Stuart-Shane Hnidy
Matt Hunwick-Steve Montador
"We could find that out later today," said Julien before departing the rink, "or it could be tomorrow morning."