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Canes, Canadiens Have Common Ground

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes

When first reading through the Montreal news this morning, the Canadiens seemed like the bizarro-Hurricanes.

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With Andrei Kostitsyn set to return from a concussion tonight and Chris Higgins set to play only his second game of the season after suffering a groin injury, the Canadiens will have a full, healthy lineup at their disposal for the first time this season.  With five regulars out of the lineup, the Canes will bring something other than that.

In another twist, Montreal’s last game ended in a 6-4 loss to the Ducks (the first regulation loss of the season for the 5-1-1 squad), despite dominating the shot margin by a total of 51-25.  Carolina’s last game ended in a 4-3 victory, despite being on the wrong side of a dominating 60-28 shot total.

Despite those differences, there is one area where the teams have some common ground – head injuries from technically legal hits.

Assuming he does suit up tonight as expected, Kostitsyn will be lucky to have only missed two games after his head was slammed into the boards by Phoenix’s Kurt Sauer 10 days ago.  Like Doug Weight’s hit on Brandon Sutter over the weekend, it was deemed a clean hit and went unpenalized, sparking a good amount of controversy afterwards.

In this editorial by Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette, Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau’s comments about the Kostitsyn incident are understandably similar to the ones Jim Rutherford made after the Sutter hit - the league should do more to protect its players.  That article is also worth a read to see Weight’s take on what happened Saturday night.

What to watch for tonight:

  • Montreal scores more goals per game than any other NHL team (3.71) without relying on just one or two players.  Fourteen players have goals, not including defenseman Andrei Markov, who hasn’t lit the lamp himself but is tied for the team’s points lead with 10 assists.  Their healthy, balanced lineup could present match-up problems for the shorthanded Canes.
  • Speaking of Markov, Montreal has a knack for making offensive stars of their defensemen.  Two years ago it was Sheldon Souray (64 points) and last year it was Mark Streit (62 points).  Both signed as free agents elsewhere after those seasons, but with players like Markov and Roman Hamrlik still around, Montreal never seems to miss a beat in that department.
  • Of course, all that could be balanced out by Carolina’s recent dominance at the Bell Centre.  Check today’s game notes for some unbelievable numbers for both Cam Ward and the team as a whole.
  • Dwight Helminen will become the third player to make his NHL debut with the Hurricanes this season, joining Sutter and Zach Boychuk.  Helminen has four points in six AHL games with Albany so far.
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