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Depleted Habs in it to win it

by Corey Masisak /
MONTREAL -- If someone were looking for a team that would not find a way to defy expectations and not find a way to push forward despite obstacles put in front of it before this postseason, the 2009-10 Montreal Canadiens probably would have been a good choice.

The Canadiens overhauled their roster after not winning a playoff game last season. As many as 11 of the players who dress Monday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS) were not on the team last season.

There has been a litany of injuries. There has also been a season-long battle for playing time in net between Jaroslav Halak and Carey Price. This Canadiens club is the anti-Penguins. They have not grown up together for the past several years and they have not always known who they could count on between the pipes.

"We're not satisfied with what we've done and we want to keep playing. Guys are willing to do whatever it takes to get back in the lineup and help this team win."
-- Josh Gorges

Yet here they are. Who will or won't play on defense for the Canadiens remains a big question for Game 6, but they have crafted quite a tale just to be in this situation.

"I think that's just the way this group is. We're a tight group and we want to play for each other," defenseman Josh Gorges said. "We want to go to war for each other. No one is satisfied with going home yet. We're not satisfied with what we've done and we want to keep playing. Guys are willing to do whatever it takes to get back in the lineup and help this team win."

Added Ryan O'Byrne: "This is what it is all about. Yeah, there is threat of elimination and obviously there is a little bit of nervousness, but you have to be excited to. It is in front of our home crowd and in a Game 6 -- no one really expected us to be here in the first place. You can't play tentative. You have to play loose and enjoy the moment. There're a lot of guys in this room with a lot of pride and we're not ready to go home ready."

There were four injured Montreal defensemen on the ice at various points Monday morning, all trying to see if they could help the Canadiens fend off elimination. Andrei Markov, who injured his knee in Game 1 of this series, and Paul Mara, who injured his shoulder in late January, both skated before their teammates at Bell Centre, but neither is expected back (coach Jacques Martin ruled Markov out).

Jaroslav Spacek hasn't played since Game 3 of the first round with an undisclosed injury, but he went through the full morning skate and was paired with Roman Hamrlik during line rushes. Martin said he is a game-time decision. The fourth was Hal Gill, who left Game 5 because of a cut on the back of his left leg and had a bit of a travel odyssey Sunday to get back to Montreal.

Gill skated briefly near the conclusion of the morning skate, and didn't have a lot to say to a massive group of reporters waiting for him in the Montreal dressing room.

"We're going to try," Gill said. "I hope so. I have to talk with the trainers and then we'll see."

Gill did not return to Montreal with his teammates on the chartered flight after Game 5 because he was still receiving treatment on his leg. He spent most of Sunday stuck in route -- he was originally supposed to fly back with a connection in Cleveland, but ended up in Philadelphia and didn't land in Montreal until just after 11 p.m.

"Hal's status will be determined after the warm-up. We'll see if he's capable of playing or not," Martin said. "It is encouraging. It shows a lot of character on his part to get back last evening and get some treatment this morning and then to try it [on the ice] this morning."

If Gill does not play, it appears as though Gorges would be paired with rookie PK Subban and O'Byrne would skate with Marc-Andre Bergeron. Everyone could be called upon to play more minutes than they expected, but that's not exactly a change -- the same thing happened when Markov went down.

"When you start worrying about who is playing or isn't playing, that's when you get into trouble," O'Byrne said. "We've fought through injuries all year. We lost Markov for an extended period of time. We've lost [Brian] Gionta and [Michael] Cammalleri. You come together and play hard. It will be no different tonight."

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