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The Habs this week: Feb. 23, 2009

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
Canadiens vs. Canucks – Tuesday, Feb. 24 @ 7:30 PM

Eight days ago, the Canadiens wrapped up a frustrating journey through the Northwest Division with a loss in Vancouver.  And while Guy Carbonneau’s troop has just one win in the three games since, their effort and offensive game has picked up in those contests, scoring 12 goals during that span. 

Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn have helped jumpstart the attack, combining for 15 points in the last five games, including four goals apiece.

The Habs will need that to continue in their first outing this week but it won’t be easy.  The Canucks arrive in Montreal on a high, winners of four straight and just one loss in February thus far. That success has been buoyed by the apparent return to form of Mats Sundin, who has been lined up with Pavol Demitra and Ryan Kesler to add some offensive depth beyond the Sedin twins.

Sundin’s well has gone dry of late, however. After getting on the scoresheet four times in Vancouver’s first three games of the month, the 38-year-old has just two helpers in six games since.

Canadiens @ Flyers – Friday, Feb. 27 @ 7 PM

While facing the Flyers is far from an easy matchup, the Canadiens have dominated the meetings over the last few years, taking eight of nine regular season tilts heading into their series finale this week.  The goal judge in the Philly zone has been busy in those victories as the Habs have lit the lamp at least four times in all but one win.

Heading into the week, Philadelphia sat a win ahead of Montreal in the Eastern Conference standings while holding a trio of games in hand. The Flyers still have their eyes set on the Atlantic Division title, sitting eight points back of the Devils.

Known for their affinity for physical play, the Flyers are surprisingly less so at the Wachovia Center.  John Stevens' charges have dished out just 498 hits on home ice – an average of just under nine per game – to rank 24th in the league in that category.  The Habs, meanwhile, like to lay out their opponents on the road, ranking second in the NHL with 679 hits away from the Bell Centre.

Canadiens vs. Sharks – Saturday, Feb. 28 @ 7 PM

The Canadiens' second-to-last set of back-to-back games concludes Saturday night as the team returns home to face the San Jose Sharks.  The top team in the NHL has a busy week before coming to Montreal, with three games in four nights beginning with their road trip opener on Monday in Dallas.  The club might be happy to bid adieu to February; the Sharks have encountered a slight slowdown in success recently, going 4-2-4 in the 10 games so far this month.

Despite his team cooling off of late, Patrick Marleau has enjoyed a bounce-back year.  Heading into the week, the Sharks captain had already eclipsed 2007-08’s disappointing 48-point effort with 63 points in 57 games.  That put him just 15 back of his totals from two years ago and just one goal shy of the career-high 34 notched back in 2005-06.

San Jose hasn’t been to the Bell Centre since January 14, 2006 when the Canadiens scored six goals in the second period – including a pair of shorthanded markers – en route to a 6-2 triumph.  The Sharks’ visit also marks the return of former Hab Claude Lemieux, who made his return to the NHL after a six-year absence back on Jan. 20. The notorious agitator spent seven years with the Canadiens (1983-1990), recording 189 points in 281 games as well as a Stanley Cup Championship in 1986.

Heather Engel is a writer for
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