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Habsenfreude

Posted by Matt Porter, Globe Correspondent  February 18, 2009 01:24 PM

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If you revel in seeing the Yankees embroiled in the A-Rod saga, we present the Montreal Canadiens.

The centennial-celebrating Habs, having lost five of six and 10 of their last 13 games, have had to deal with a lot. Like injuries, to then-leading scorer Robert Lang, who had his left Achilles tendon sliced after Stephane Yelle hit him in a Feb. 1 game in Montreal; to Guillaume Latendresse, who left that game with a separated shoulder after Chuck Kobasew bumped him to the boards; to Alex Tanguay, who has missed six weeks with his own shoulder woes.

They've also dealt with the issues of Carey Price, the second-year keeper who has suffered from a crippling blend of the flu, nagging injuries and the expectations of a city that had anointed him the second coming of Patrick Roy. He's still young and possibly capable of greatness, but this year, Price's best work came when the games didn't count. Another youngster, Sergei Kostitsyn, has seemingly caught Price's case of the yips. Yesterday, Kostitsyn was sent down to Hamilton of the AHL after frustrating Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau with his propensity to take ill-timed penalties.

Now this. Alex Kovalev, who in the past has worn the Montreal 'C' in the absence of captain Saku Koivu, was stamped with a big red 'F'. Kovalev, who was benched for the third period of the Feb. 1 game against Boston, was yesterday told by Habs brass to stay home for end of a six-game road swing that concludes tomorrow in Pittsburgh. He'll also miss tonight's match with the second-place Capitals in Washington.

Montreal GM Bob Gainey told reporters that (surprise!) Kovalev's lack of oomph led to his timeout. He hasn't scored a goal in 10 games -- after going dry for 19 games earlier in the year. You know the book on Kovalev. When he's on, one of the most dangerous players in the universe. But when he's off? He's uninspired, unimpressive . . . the guy who took a slash in double overtime of Game 4 of the 2004 playoff series against the Bruins and stopped skating, while a joyful Glen Murray snatched the puck, broke in and scored to win it. A magician with the puck, sure, but an habitual collector of dust and cobwebs. Wonder how those training tips and tricks DVDs are selling.

With the Kovalev mess boiling as the trade deadline approaches, keep your eyes locked on Montreal, who has several UFAs-to-be, including Kovalev, Mike Komisarek and the aforementioned Lang (on IR) and Tanguay. They've already made one move (bringing in old pal Mathieu Schneider, a member of the '93 Cup run) and they've shown a willingness to shake things up in the past.

Of course, the fifth-place Canadiens aren't in Tampa territory quite yet, and waving the white flag doesn't cut it in Montreal. It's doubtful they'll become sellers at the March 4 deadline. But it's also doubtful any of this will be included in the hardcover edition of 'Le Centennial Celebration.'

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Elsewhere on the interwebs . . . TSN's James Duthie had an entertaining piece on Aaron [Bleeping] Ward, a 'character guy' if there ever was one . . . An in-depth TSN look at the top 12 Bruins prospects . . . Mick Colageo checks in with his remembrances of Glen Wesley, a solid defenseman, but not the most captivating public speaker . . . We'll end with a poll for Bruins fans: Erik Cole, Keith Tkachuk, or Jordan Leopold. Pick one, and what would you send in return?

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