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Posted On Tuesday, 02.21.2012 / 5:05 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Ribeiro happy to be back in Montreal

MONTREAL -- It's been a long time coming for Mike Ribeiro.

The Dallas Stars center will play his first regular-season game in his hometown since he was traded away in 2006 by the Montreal Canadiens, and he can't wait.

"I'm excited to see the atmosphere in the building again," Ribeiro said Tuesday morning. "Maybe they forgot me, it's been so long."

Ribeiro was injured the only other time the Stars played at Bell Centre since he was traded for defenseman Janne Niinimaa on Sept. 30, 2006, though he did play in a preseason game here in September.

"It's been six years," said Ribeiro, who turned 32 on Feb. 10. "If I look back on my career there are some things I'd like to do over again, and I think everyone in their lives can look back at things they'd like to improve. But I'm looking to the future, and what's in the past is in the past."

Ribeiro thrived almost immediately upon his arrival in Dallas, while Niinimaa played just 41 games in a Canadiens uniform. The deal widely is panned by Canadiens fans as one of team's the worst in recent years.

"I'm sure they know they made a mistake, but who would have said I would play this way?" Ribeiro said. "I'm coming back to Montreal in front of my friends and people I grew up with, so I'll try to play well and I'll try to score tonight."

He feels the constant pressure the Canadiens are under from their fans and the media to produce a winner led to him being traded, and it affects the franchise's ability to wait for their young players to reach their full potential.

"You have to be patient with the young guys, because you get better as you grow and as you learn the game," he said. "A lot of times in Montreal you have to win now and a lot of times kids are not ready to win now, so you get impatient and trade them -- like in my situation -- a little too quickly."

Ribeiro is far from the only former Canadiens player in town with the Stars. He’s joined by his linemate, right wing Michael Ryder, and defensemen Stephane Robidas and Sheldon Souray, who was disappointed he won't be able to suit up as he recovers from a foot injury.

The game also will be special for first-year Stars coach Glen Gulutzan, who grew up a Canadiens fan in Hudson Bay, Sask., and wore the No. 23 jersey of Bob Gainey to school as a kid.

The game is so special he insisted his father, Gene, make the trip to Montreal to attend.

"I've had a few pinchable moments, and this was certainly one of them when we played our exhibition game here," Gulutzan said. "It's not the typical exhibition game with 20-some thousand people in the stands. It's special to come back to Canada, but in Montreal it's a little extra special. It's a little surreal at times."

While players always get up for games against their former teams, Gulutzan feels the Canadiens have a home-ice disadvantage because it's pretty difficult for any player not to get excited to play a game in Montreal.

"You get amped up to play here because it's exciting," Gulutzan said. "It's the talk of the town and the players feel that vibe. I'm sure it's not easy for the home team here because other teams are gunned up and ready."

That certainly will be the case for Gulutzan's top center.
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.21.2012 / 3:04 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Benn out, tired Eriksson in for Stars

MONTREAL -- The Dallas Stars will be missing All-Star Jamie Benn for a third straight game when they face the Montreal Canadiens tonight. And while star forward Loui Eriksson will play, it's likely he'll be a pretty tired.

Eriksson was flying to Montreal from Dallas on Tuesday to re-join the team after his wife gave birth to the couple's second daughter on Monday morning, just as the team's flight here was leaving.

As for Benn, he took the ice briefly after his teammates were finished with the morning skate, but the cut on his left leg is not healed enough for him to return.

"It's the equivalent of getting stabbed in the leg," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. "He wants to play (Thursday) in Chicago. He's getting better every day, so that's the encouraging part."

Another Dallas player looking to make a return Thursday is defenseman Sheldon Souray, who has been out since Feb. 9 with a foot injury.

Souray took a regular turn with the Stars at their morning skate, but it was just his second time practicing with the team and his conditioning is not where it needs to be to face the Canadiens.

"I was pushing for this game," Souray, who spent six seasons with the Canadiens, said.

For the Canadiens, rookie forward Louis Leblanc will return to the lineup after missing the last game with the flu, while Erik Cole will be available even though he sat out Monday's practice with a leg injury.

The goaltending matchup is Kari Lehtonen for the Stars against Montreal's Carey Price, who will start his ninth game in a row.

Here are the expected lineups for tonight:

STARS
Loui Eriksson - Mike Ribeiro - Michael Ryder
Steve Ott - Tom Wandell - Tomas Vincour
Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Radek Dvorak
Ryan Garbutt - Jake Dowell - Adam Burish

Alex Goligoski - Stephane Robidas
Adam Pardy - Philip Larsen
Mark Fistric - Trevor Daley

Kari Lehtonen will start in net, with Richard Bachman backing him up.

CANADIENS
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Mathieu Darche - Tomas Plekanec - Rene Bourque
Ryan White - Scott Gomez - Andrei Kostitsyn
Louis Leblanc - Lars Eller
 
Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Alexei Emelin - Raphael Diaz
Tomas Kaberle - Chris Campoli
Yannick Weber

Carey Price will start in net, with Peter Budaj the backup.
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Posted On Sunday, 02.19.2012 / 12:31 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

DeBoer not taking postseason for granted

MONTREAL -- After three seasons of missing the playoffs as head coach of the Florida Panthers, New Jersey Devils bench boss Peter DeBoer is likely sincere when he says his club's incredible run since the All-Star break has not necessarily allowed him to sleep much better at night.

"I'm never comfortable this time of year. You're a bad weekend away from being in a dogfight for eighth," DeBoer said Sunday morning. "You're never comfortable until you're in."

In that case, the Devils opponents Sunday evening are not the least bit comfortable, seeing as the Montreal Canadiens sit six points out of the final playoff spot, with four teams to leapfrog in order to get there.

The Habs have put together a 5-1-1 stretch to remain on the periphery of the playoff hunt, and DeBoer is cognizant of the effect the trade of defenseman Hal Gill to the Nashville Predators on Friday can have on a team's attitude.

"We're going to see a desperate team," DeBoer said. "I think they've been playing well, I've watched the last few games on tape. They always give us a hard time, they have a lot of speed, a lot of skill. You never know how a team's going to react once you begin making trades or selling off guys. I've been on that end of that, and a lot of times you get a positive reaction because other guys are getting an opportunity. So we have to be prepared for that."

The Devils have been on a tremendous run since the All-Star break with a 7-1-1 record, and DeBoer gives all the credit for that to his leadership group of goaltender Martin Brodeur and forwards Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias.

Brodeur has a 6-0-1 record with a .936 save percentage and 1.82 goals against average since the break, while Kovalchuk has 17 points, Parise has 10 points and Elias has 8 points in those nine games.

"We came out of the All-Star break and realized as a group that we had to find another level. It started with our best players. Marty Brodeur's come back and been outstanding, Kovalchuk, Parise, Elias, all those guys have found another level that we knew they had. It's translated into wins," DeBoer said. "Those guys realized that we needed a push here in order to get in. We went into the All-Star break sitting tied for eighth with a tough stretch of games coming out of it. We knew that the rubber was kind of hitting the road, so to speak, and we needed to find another level. Those guys have done that."

The Devils have done this largely without rookie defenseman Adam Larsson, who has been out with a bruised back since taking a big hit from Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban and slamming hard into the boards in New Jersey on Feb. 2. In addition to that, Henrik Tallinder has been out since Jan. 17 with a leg injury, and it appears another defenseman will also be missing Sunday as Kurtis Foster will likely be replaced by minor league call-up Peter Harrold.

In light of this, DeBoer says Brodeur's play of late has been more vital than ever.

"We need him to be our best player on a lot of nights, especially with some of the injuries on defense we've been dealing with," he said. "He's been great."

Brodeur will be playing his final game of the season in his hometown, where he has a career record of 18-8-1 with a 1.55 GAA, .944 save percentage and five shutouts.

Carey Price will get the start in goal for the Canadiens, who did not skate Sunday morning.

Here are the expected lineups for Sunday night's game.

DEVILS


Zach PariseAdam HenriqueIlya Kovalchuk
Petr SykoraPatrik EliasDavid Clarkson
Alexei PonikarovskyDainius ZubrusSteve Bernier
Eric BoultonJacob JosefsonNick Palmieri

Andy GreeneMark Fayne
Bryce SalvadorAnton Volchenkov
Matt TaorminaPeter Harrold

CANADIENS

Max PaciorettyDavid DesharnaisErik Cole
Mathieu DarcheTomas PlekanecRene Bourque
Ryan WhiteScott GomezAndrei Kostitsyn
Louis LeblancLars Eller

Josh GorgesP.K. Subban
Alexei EmelinRaphael Diaz
Tomas KaberleChris Campoli

Yannick Weber
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Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 2:46 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Kostitsyn hasn't asked Canadiens for a trade -- yet

BROSSARD, Que. -- Impending unrestricted free agent Andrei Kostitsyn says he has not asked the Montreal Canadiens to trade him in spite of greatly diminished ice time that bottomed out at a season-low 4:20 in Monday night's loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.

But he says he might just do that if his situation does not change soon.

"Not yet," Kostitsyn said Wednesday when asked if he's requested a trade. "But we'll see in the next couple of games."

Kostitsyn just turned 27 on Feb. 3 and is playing out a contract that pays him $3.25 million. He scored 26 goals in his first full NHL season in 2007-08 but has never been able to match that total, though he topped the 20-goal mark in two of his previous three seasons.

He also brings a physical dimension to the game, topping 100 hits in each of the past four seasons and leading the Canadiens with 140 last season.

This season Kostitsyn has 12 goals and 12 assists in 47 games but he has hit a major dry spell with just 1 goal and 1 assist in his last eight games. Over his last four games, Kostitsyn's ice time has gone from 14:30 to 12:08 to 11:15 and finally to 4:20 on Monday.

"It's tough when you sit on the bench, you just (watch) the game. … You're freezing on the bench," Kostitsyn said. "I can't do anything in four minutes. If he gives me more ice time, I can show how I can play."

"He" is Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth, who explained the reason Kostitsyn was benched Monday night was because he committed turnovers on three consecutive shifts.

"The coach is probably thinking I'm the one guy on the team that (commits) turnovers or loses the puck," Kostitsyn said. "That's why maybe he put me on the bench."

Cunneyworth said he wants Kostitsyn and his center Scott Gomez to "play the right way" if they want to earn more ice time.

"I understand what he wants," Kostitsyn said. "He wants us to chip the puck and put the puck behind the defensemen and play in their zone. I tried to do that last game, but I still stayed on the bench. Nothing different."

Cunneyworth would not confirm whether Kostitsyn or Gomez would suit up for Wednesday night's game against the Boston Bruins.

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Posted On Wednesday, 02.15.2012 / 12:54 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Kostitsyn hasn't asked Canadiens for a trade -- yet

BROSSARD, Que. -- Impending unrestricted free agent Andrei Kostitsyn says he has not asked the Montreal Canadiens to trade him in spite of greatly diminished ice time that bottomed out at a season-low 4:20 in Monday night's loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.

But he says he might just do that if his situation does not change soon.

"Not yet," Kostitsyn said Wednesday when asked if he's requested a trade. "But we'll see in the next couple of games."

Kostitsyn just turned 27 on Feb. 3 and is playing out a contract that pays him $3.25 million. He scored 26 goals in his first full NHL season in 2007-08 but has never been able to match that total, though he topped the 20-goal mark in two of his previous three seasons.

He also brings a physical dimension to the game, topping 100 hits in each of the past four seasons and leading the Canadiens with 140 last season.

This season Kostitsyn has 12 goals and 12 assists in 47 games but he has hit a major dry spell with just 1 goal and 1 assist in his last eight games. Over his last four games, Kostitsyn's ice time has gone from 14:30 to 12:08 to 11:15 and finally to 4:20 on Monday.

"It's tough when you sit on the bench, you just (watch) the game. … You're freezing on the bench," Kostitsyn said. "I can't do anything in four minutes. If he gives me more ice time, I can show how I can play."

"He" is Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth, who explained the reason Kostitsyn was benched Monday night was because he committed turnovers on three consecutive shifts.

"The coach is probably thinking I'm the one guy on the team that (commits) turnovers or loses the puck," Kostitsyn said. "That's why maybe he put me on the bench."

Cunneyworth said he wants Kostitsyn and his center Scott Gomez to "play the right way" if they want to earn more ice time.

"I understand what he wants," Kostitsyn said. "He wants us to chip the puck and put the puck behind the defensemen and play in their zone. I tried to do that last game, but I still stayed on the bench. Nothing different."

Cunneyworth would not confirm whether Kostitsyn or Gomez would suit up for Wednesday night's game against the Boston Bruins.


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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 4:48 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Could Habs' Kostitsyn be available?

BROSSARD, Que. -- Losing Wednesday's game could put the Canadiens' playoff hopes to bed for good, and with the trade deadline looming Feb. 27 Montreal General Manager Pierre Gauthier may be inclined to declare himself a seller.

Among the potential assets Gauthier could move by the deadline, the names of Gill and injured forward Travis Moen have come up often because they both have Stanley Cup rings and both can be unrestricted free agents July 1.

Another possibility is Andrei Kostitsyn, who played a season-low 4:20 in Monday's 5-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. He had just one 40-second shift in the third period.

"We need more," Cunneyworth said of his decision to bench Kostitsyn. "For me, I saw a problem with turnovers. That was my main concern. It was three shifts, three turnovers that were painfully obvious. It comes down to managing the puck, and he's a veteran that should know better."

Kostitsyn, who turned 27 on Feb. 3, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. With 20 goals in three of the four previous season and decent size at 6-foot, 214 pounds, it's possible someone with his skill set could interest a playoff-bound team looking for someone to plug into their top six.
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.14.2012 / 4:43 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Gomez, Ladouceur clash in Canadiens practice

BROSSARD, Que. -- The Montreal Canadiens' season to date has been one rife with frustration, and there was further evidence of that at practice Tuesday.

One day after blowing yet another third period lead in a 5-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, center Scott Gomez and Canadiens assistant coach Randy Ladouceur engaged in a very vocal and animated exchange over a drill that was not completed to the coach's liking.

The back and forth between the two continued for several minutes while the team was gathered along the boards to receive instructions on the next drill, and Gomez sought out Ladouceur later in practice to continue the discussion.

For a team that may have seen its dimming playoff hopes shut off for good with the loss to the Hurricanes, which left them 11th in the Eastern Conference seven points behind the eighth-place Maple Leafs, the shouting match appeared to reflect how many players on the team were feeling.

"It happens all the time. I screwed up on the drill. It just shows you how the fire's still there in all of us," Gomez said. "I screwed up on the drill and he let me know about it. It's not the first time, it's not the last time. It's a part of hockey. It happens all the time, and it just shows how crucial it is right now."

Though there clearly was some back and forth going on between the two, Gomez suggested he was doing more listening than talking.

"I wasn't going back, I was listening to him," Gomez said. "He's the coach. It was a conversation, there was no argument. It's a coach yelling at a player for messing up a drill. We're all in a position where we realize where we're at and your attitude's going to change a little bit, you're a little more on edge. I wish I could tell you there was more, but it was nothing."

It was not the first time Ladouceur has had a public discipline session with a player. Cameras caught him doing the same thing with defenseman P.K. Subban on the bench during a game in Pittsburgh on Jan. 20 after a turnover cost the Canadiens a shorthanded goal.

But this time it took place in front of the entire team, and the message sent was noticed by other players.

"It's the whole team," said veteran defenseman Hal Gill. "You're isolating it to one instance on the ice, but it's the whole team. The way things are going, everyone's got to be sharp. It's not one guy that wins games or one guy that loses games. We have to be sharper as a team."

Gomez played just 7:49 against Carolina, the lowest ice time he's had this season since he played just 2:40 Oct. 20 against Pittsburgh due to an upper-body injury.

Head coach Randy Cunneyworth said he fully supported Ladouceur's tone with Gomez, and refused to confirm Gomez would even play Wednesday at home against the Boston Bruins.

"We'll look at it; we'll look at everything at this time," Cunneyworth said when asked directly whether or not Gomez would play. "We're looking for the lineup that will play the right way and battle hard against a very good Boston Bruins team. That's all we’re looking for -- 20 guys that will do that."

The only lineup decision Cunneyworth would confirm for Wednesday's game was that Ryan White -- a hard-nosed, scrappy forward that fits perfectly into the style of game Cunneyworth is trying to sell -- will make his season debut after fully recovering from sports-hernia surgery.

White's insertion into the lineup means one forward who played Monday most likely will need to come out against Boston, and there's nothing saying it won't be Gomez or linemate Andrei Kostitsyn, who played just 4:20 Monday against the Hurricanes.

"We can't have one passenger, no matter who it is. There's a lot at stake here," Cunneyworth said. "If we don't play the right way, whether it's a top club or not, you're not going to achieve the goals you want. We have to have a great effort from everybody against a team like Boston, otherwise they'll embarrass you."
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Posted On Monday, 02.13.2012 / 3:20 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Habs aim for fifth straight win vs. resurgent Canes

MONTREAL -- The Carolina Hurricanes will look to prevent the Montreal Canadiens from establishing a new season high with a fifth straight win when the two clubs meet tonight at Bell Centre.

The game marks the return of Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller and defenseman Jaroslav Spacek to Montreal, while Canadiens defenseman Tomas Kaberle will also be facing his former teammates for the first time since the trade involving he and Spacek on Dec. 9.

The Hurricanes come in on a nice roll of their own with a 6-2-4 record in their last 12 games, and aside from long-term casualties Brian Boucher in goal and Joni Pitkanen on defense, they are also arriving healthy.

The Canadiens' lineup for this game will be a lot of guesswork beyond starting goaltender Carey Price, who will face Cam Ward in the Hurricanes net.

A lower-body injury to Yannick Weber and Travis Moen re-aggravating an upper-body injury last week that had previously cost him five games led the Canadiens to call up Ryan White and Ian Schultz from the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL on Sunday evening.

White has missed the whole season recovering from hernia surgery in training camp, but he played three games in three days while on a conditioning stint in Hamilton and playing Monday would be his fourth game in as many days. Still, he appeared determined to go even though coach Randy Cunneyworth called his status a game-time decision.

Schultz's status is the same after his surprise call-up left the Canadiens with 13 healthy forwards. The most likely scenario would see White return and Schultz left aside while one of Chris Campoli or Raphael Diaz would be scratched on defense. Or Cunneyworth could go with seven defensemen as he has for much of this winning streak and also scratch Aaron Palushaj along with Schultz up front.

Frankly, all scenarios are equally possible for the Canadiens, so with that in mind here are the possible lineups for tonight's game:

HURRICANES

Tuomo Ruutu - Eric Staal - Jiri Tlusty
Jussi Jokinen - Jeff Skinner - Jerome Samson
Andreas Nodl - Brandon Sutter - Patrick Dwyer
Anthony Stewart - Tim Brent - Chad LaRose

Tim Gleason - Bryan Allen
Jay Harrison - Justin Faulk
Jaroslav Spacek - Jamie McBain

Cam Ward
Justin Peters

CANADIENS
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Mathieu Darche - Tomas Plekanec - Rene Bourque
Ryan White - Lars Eller - Louis Leblanc
Andrei Kostitsyn - Scott Gomez

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Tomas Kaberle - Alexei Emelin
Hal Gill - Raphael Diaz
Chris Campoli

Carey Price
Peter Budaj

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Posted On Tuesday, 02.07.2012 / 2:06 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Canadiens hope to have Moen back in lineup

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens look to be welcoming back a big piece of their lineup when they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night, and it's an addition that will likely make many other teams around the League take notice as well.

Forward Travis Moen, an impending free agent who could be moved by the Habs prior to the Feb. 27 trade deadline, will most likely make his return from an upper-body injury that has cost him the past five games.

Moen skated Tuesday morning with a non-contact jersey, but he was supposed to meet with doctors later in the day to get his final clearance. Moen said his status would be a game time decision, but coach Randy Cunneyworth said he was "confident" the big forward will play.

If Moen can't go, Cunneyworth said he may dress just 10 forwards and eight defensemen for the game, but that appears to be a remote possibility.

For the Penguins, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury will get his 26th start in Pittsburgh's last 27 games, a situation he brushed off because "we had the All-Star break, and that gave me some rest."

Coach Dan Bylsma revealed backup Brent Johnson can expect to see more work in February with six sets of back-to-back games on the schedule. He said Johnson will play anywhere between seven and 11 of Pittsburgh's final 28 games after the one in Montreal.

As far as what looks like a mismatch on paper between a Penguins team that has won nine of 11 games and a Canadiens team sitting near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, Bylsma would have none of it.

The last two times these teams have met the Penguins had to erase two-goal deficits to win, once in a shootout and another in overtime.

"The last game, I would say they had success and we had to kind of rescue that game in the end, which we did with a big goal from Geno (Evgeni Malkin)," Bylsma said. "There are aspects of the Canadiens that have always given us problems -- speed forwards, plays around the net. They've always given us problems there, and this is a tough place to play for us."

Defenseman Kristopher Letang will be playing at Bell Centre for the first time since suffering a concussion here on a hit by Montreal's Max Pacioretty that cost him six weeks of action. He says he bears no ill will towards Pacioretty and that his three-game suspension was punishment enough, but mainly Letang feels the disparity in the standings should be forgotten by his Penguins for this game.

"Regardless of their situation, that’s not our problem," Letang said. "Our problem is winning games."

The Penguins held an optional skate Tuesday morning so it would be difficult to guess their lines, particularly with the absence of Tyler Kennedy to a lower-body injury. The one unit that can go to the bank is Evgeni Malkin centering Chris Kunitz and James Neal. Malkin has 12 goals and 4 assists in his last 11 games, while Neal has 6 goals and 7 assists over the same span.

The Canadiens paired Josh Gorges and Hal Gill to face that line the last time they played and the duo was extremely effective until Malkin scored with 2:43 to play to tie the game and send it to overtime. It's a strategy Cunneyworth may want to use again.
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Posted On Friday, 02.03.2012 / 4:43 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - NHL.com Countdown to the Trade Deadline blog

Habs face reality of being sellers at deadline

The Montreal Canadiens will play host to the Washington Capitals in a Hockey Night in Canada Saturday matinee in February, but the franchise is in a position it is not accustomed to.

Montreal is 19-23-9 and with 47 points the Canadiens are in a three-way tie for the least in the Eastern Conference. As a dashing run towards a postseason berth becomes more and more improbable, Montreal is likely to face the reality of becoming a seller at the trade deadline. 

Here’s what NHL.com’s Arpon Basu wrote earlier today on the subject for the League’s French website:

While a playoff spot is a distant 11 points away, the Canadiens find themselves just two points out of 29th in the League standings. The situation has many of the team’s fans openly excited about the prospect of landing a top-five pick in the 2012 Entry Draft, and it also positions the Canadiens as potential sellers leading up to the Feb. 27 trade deadline.

With both the deadline and the standings serving as potential distractions for his players, coach Randy Cunneyworth will have quite a job to do to keep the Canadiens focused over the coming weeks.

“What I look at – and what I hope my players look at – is what’s in front of us today, maybe tomorrow, but beyond that it doesn’t matter at this time. What matters is today,” Cunneyworth said. “To look beyond today or tomorrow would be too overwhelming.”

The Canadiens have a few players set to hit unrestricted free agency who could be attractive to contending teams looking to shore up at the deadline.

Rugged forward Travis Moen and penalty killing specialist Hal Gill are both former Stanley Cup winners who have excelled in the playoffs with the Canadiens.

Gill has played a more limited role with the club this season, but his ability to shutdown opposing teams’ top players becomes a very valued commodity in the playoffs when matchups become so much more important.

As for Moen, he is just two goals and five points shy of his career highs in each category while still serving as a top-end penalty killer for the Canadiens. He is currently out with an upper body injury, but Cunneyworth said he hopes to have Moen back next week.

Then there is defenseman Chris Campoli, who has dressed in just 10 of the 19 games Cunneyworth has coached.

Signed late in the summer to add a veteran presence to a young defense group, Campoli tore a hamstring on opening night. Then after his second game back, head coach Jacques Martin was fired and Campoli has not been able to grab a regular spot on a Canadiens defense that is not loaded with star power.

Campoli was acquired by the Chicago Blackhawks prior to last season’s trade deadline from the Ottawa Senators and he played an important role with them, which is why he is convinced he can still do the same.

Except he hopes he gets that chance in Montreal.

“The most frustrating thing is I’m capable of more. Playing top-four minutes in Chicago last year, I know I’m capable of more,” Campoli said. “But my focus day by day is trying to get back in this lineup. As far as future opportunities are concerned, that’s not what I’m focused on.

“Having said that, if someone thinks enough of you to trade for you, it’s tough moving on but from my past experience it’s something you would have to be excited about. But again, my focus is on being a Montreal Canadien and trying to get back in this lineup.”

For Campoli’s teammates, it is keeping that same focus of playing for the pride that comes with wearing a Canadiens sweater that will be challenging. And in Lars Eller’s eyes, simply talking about it has become very tiresome.

“It’s very frustrating because there’s been so much talk,” he said. “Too much talk on what’s not being done right, and this or that, blah, blah, blah. The focus has been on the wrong things. There should be less talk and more acting out there. That’s the short story.”
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