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Gomez, Spacek practice for Habs, hope to face Flyers

by Arpon Basu
BROSSARD, Que. -- The banged up Montreal Canadiens had a full complement of players at Tuesday's practice, but it's not yet clear who will be available for a matchup with the Philadelphia Flyers at home Wednesday, where the Habs will try to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season.

Center Scott Gomez (lower body) and defenseman Jaroslav Spacek (upper body) skated with the team for the first time since they suffered their respective injuries, while defenseman Josh Gorges also skated after missing practice a day earlier to treat some minor ailments.

Gomez has missed the last two games with a mystery injury suffered last Tuesday against Ottawa, one that was not caught by television cameras and which Gomez has been deliciously evasive on.

On Tuesday morning alone, Gomez claimed he had a broken toe, a sprained ankle, a knee injury and a calf injury, while in Toronto on Saturday he mentioned he had a shin injury.

Whatever it is, Gomez said it felt good in practice, but a final decision will be made after Wednesday's morning skate.

"I probably went 100 percent, in practice you don't want to go out there and worry about it," Gomez said. "With broken toes, your stride's a little off."

Gomez skated at practice Tuesday with Brian Gionta and minor-league call-up Max Pacioretty, who will make his season debut against the Flyers after leading the AHL with 17 goals, including 16 in his last 19 games.

Pacioretty, 22, played 52 games last season with the Canadiens before being sent down to regain his confidence.

Mission accomplished.

"His performance in Hamilton showed that he's gone to a higher level in terms of confidence, in terms of going to the net, in terms of moving the puck, and he's also a smart player," said Canadiens coach Jacques Martin, who was in the building when Pacioretty got a goal and an assist in a 5-1 Hamilton Bulldogs win Sunday just hours before the call-up.

Gomez and Gionta, former teammates with the Devils and linemates all of last season, haven't played together on a line since Nov. 5. A big reason they were separated at the time was that Martin was having trouble finding a fit on left wing with the pair, and Pacioretty hopes he can be the answer.

"I think there would be good balance on that line if we do play together," Pacioretty said. "They're the two skill guys, and I've been playing really well in front of the net and in the corners. So I'd have to be the first one in on the forecheck, and grinding out pucks and going to the net."

Martin also could have used Pacioretty's call-up as an excuse to re-unite the line of Tomas Plekanec, Michael Cammalleri and Andrei Kostitysn, one that was producing earlier in the season. But instead, Martin put Travis Moen with Plekanec and Cammalleri, while Kostitsyn was playing on what could be considered a fourth line with Jeff Halpern and Maxim Lapierre.

"Players need to look at their own performance," Martin said of Kostitsyn, who has 3 goals and 7 assists in his last 21 games. "He was effective when he was involved and he gave us some good hockey occasionally, but right now we need more than that. He's a big guy who's strong and he needs to go to the net and shoot the puck and be involved."

On defense, Spacek's status for Wednesday is a little less clear as he was practicing as the extra defenseman Tuesday. Injured in a fight with Clarke MacArthur in Saturday night's listless 3-1 loss in Toronto, Spacek rated his chances of playing at about "50-50."

He said that was the third fight of his career, and he's been injured in two of them, forcing him to re-think his strategy.

"I told myself I'm not 20 anymore," said Spacek, 36. "Next time, I'll keep my helmet on and try to run away."

Martin was pretty happy to hear of Spacek's newfound wisdom when it comes to dropping the gloves.

"He's not a fighter," Martin said. "I think that was pretty clear."
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