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Duel in the desert

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

PHOENIX – Things could get tough for the Habs in Phoenix as another key player will be unable to dress against the Coyotes.

Nagged by a lower body injury, sniper Michael Cammalleri won’t be suiting up for the Habs in their Western Conference showdown with the Coyotes on Thursday night.

“Cammalleri was able to finish out our last game, but is currently being listed as day-to-day. He’s dealing with a lower body injury and won’t play in tonight’s game,” explained Canadiens head coach Jacques Martin mentioned moments after the team’s morning skate before also offering an update on Scott Gomez’s condition. “We’re hoping that Scott will be ready to go for Saturday night’s game. We’ll see how things develop over the next couple of days, but he has been cleared for contact.”

Canadiens practice at Arena

With the injury list growing, the Canadiens will face the sizable Coyotes squad without the services of Cammelleri, Gomez, Andrei Kostitsyn and Andrei Markov, who skated solo after practice with strength and conditioning coach, Pierre Allard.

“We have players out right now, but like I mention every time, it represents a great chance for others to make their mark,” finished Martin. “It’s a great opportunity for guys like [Mathieu] Darche who will get to play with [David] Desharnais and [Erik] Cole, as well as [Aaron] Palushaj who will be playing with [Lars] Eller and [Travis] Moen.”

After making the flight from Hamilton to Montreal and then joining the Canadiens for yet another flight to Phoenix, Palushaj will be looking to make the most of the opportunity his coach mentioned.

“I felt great skating out there this morning and I’m excited to be able to get out there and play on a line with Lars and Travis. They’re two great players and hopefully I can add a dimension that can help them out,” expressed Palushaj who made his last appearance in the bleu-blanc-rouge on Oct. 22 against the Leafs.
“I think Lars and I have some pretty good chemistry together; we played together a little bit in Peoria as well when he was back in the American League,” added Palushaj. “It was fun to be able to play with him then and I’m sure it’ll be a ton of fun tonight – I’m just anxious to get the game going.”

Also making the jump to one of the Canadiens’ top two lines for Thursday night’s tilt,  Darche is ready to pitch in for a team effort in any way he can.

“We definitely have our share of injuries right now, but that just means that guys have to step up. I’m not trying to say that I’m going to be able to go out there and play like Michael Cammalleri, but I’m going to do the best I can to help. In the end, this is part of playing in the NHL,” pointed out Darche of the Habs’ year-long battle to keep players out of the team clinic.

“Sometimes seasons just go like this when it comes to injuries and there’s not a whole lot you can do. The only thing we can control is how hard we play with the guys that we have available to us.”

Justin Fragapane is a writer for

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