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Isles will look to play physical against Habs

by Arpon Basu /
MONTREAL -- The battered and bruised Montreal Canadiens have little time to lick their wounds after the 8-6 beating they took at the hands of the Bruins in Boston, getting right back on the ice Thursday night against the well-rested New York Islanders.

Benoit Pouliot was probably the only member of the Canadiens that came out on the winning end of the six fights Wednesday in Boston. He was pretty frank when it came to Montreal's chances in games where toughness is a bigger factor than speed or skill.

"We're not the toughest team in the League, I think everyone knows that," Pouliot said. "We're one of the smallest teams in the League, so it's tough for us to compete in a game like that."

Canadiens left wing Tom Pyatt appeared to be the player who suffered most in the game that featured 187 penalty minutes between the two clubs. Pyatt's face was left bloodied by Gregory Campbell during a final-minute line brawl, one where Campbell appeared to be punching Pyatt with his elbow pad.

Pyatt had seven stitches under his right eye and a black and blue welt between the eye and his nose, but he said he felt nothing abnormal about the fight.

"I didn't really feel an elbow pad or anything," Pyatt said. "I didn't notice that."

The residual effect of that throwback game was definitely noticed in the Islanders dressing room, particularly by tough guy Zenon Konopka, the League-leader in penalty minutes with 181 on the season.

"When you prepare for a team, you want to look at every avenue that you can exploit," Konopka said. "When you go against Montreal, it's no secret you want to get physical with them."

Konopka admits he's biased when he says a team will have difficulty winning without players who can compete in games that turn overly physical. An unrestricted free agent after the season, Konopka also made no effort to hide the fact he would love to fill that role for the Canadiens if his services were to be required at the trade deadline.

"Every player wants to play in Montreal at some point in their career," said Kenopka, who will get that chance Thursday night, except in an Islanders uniform.

But one of Konopka's former teammates who's getting that chance now is James Wisniewski, who came over in a trade with the Islanders on Dec. 28 and will face his old team for the first time.

"When you prepare for a team, you want to look at every avenue that you can exploit. When you go against Montreal, it's no secret you want to get physical with them." -- Zenon Konopka

The trade was Wisniewski's third in a span of less than two years, but he said the feeling of playing a former team doesn't get old.

"Playing for a team for half a year isn't like when I got traded from Chicago, I was there for four years," he said. "But you always want to prove them wrong and show what you have."

The Canadiens will start backup Alex Auld in goal while the Islanders counter with the fifth goalie to play for them this season, Mikko Koskinen. He'll be backed up by Joel Martin, who was dispatched from Bridgeport to Long Island by limousine on Tuesday after Kevin Poulin was injured in warm-ups for a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
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