Montreal Canadiens head coach Jacques Martin knows how pivotal Thursday night’s Game 4 against the Penguins at Bell Centre is to the Canadiens’ chances of pulling off a second-straight series upset.
With his team trailing the best-of-seven-series 2-1 to the Penguins, he is well aware that a second-consecutive loss on home ice, where the Canadiens are just 1-3 in this year’s postseason, will leave Montreal in a precarious 3-1 hole.
While the Canadiens might have stormed back from such a deficit in round one against the No. 1-seeded Washington Capitals, they know history is not on their side when it comes to making a comeback of that nature.
“There is always pressure in a situation like this,” Martin said. “We know this is a crucial game. We know we have a big challenge. This team hasn’t lost on the road. They are 4-0. This is a great team and this is the challenge we have tonight.”
In an effort to avoid allowing the Penguins to take a commanding 3-1 lead, Martin is planning on making a few adjustments to his lineup prior to Game 4 in an effort to get more balanced scoring from his troops.
Forward Andrei Kostitsyn, who scored 15 goals in the regular reason and was one of Montreal’s best forwards in the Washington series, will be promoted from the fourth line to the top unit alongside Scott Gomez and Mike Cammalleri. Kostitsyn played a grand total of just 12:59 minutes combined in Games 2 and 3.
Martin is banking on the red-hot play of Cammalleri, who has three of Montreal’s six goals in the series and ranks third in postseason scoring with 13 points (8G-5A), to spark Kostitsyn and Gomez.
Kostitsyn has gone scoreless over the past four games after notching six points (3G-3A) in his first six games. Gomez has four assists in the series and eight points overall (1G-7A) in 10 games, but he hasn’t scored a goal since Game 1 against Washington.
“I think where people fit in the puzzle changes from game to game,” Martin said. “I think at times you have to look at your lines and see what is being created. The challenge is to try to get four lines that will help us win the game tonight.”
Presumably this will mean that Tomas Plekanec, Montreal’s leading scorer from the regular season (70 points; 25G-45A), will skate with Brian Gionta, who scored in both Games 1 and 2 against Pittsburgh.
Plekanec had been skating on a line with Cammalleri and Travis Moen.
Martin also hinted that he might be more willing to roll out all four lines a little more consistently on Thursday after mainly using just three dating back to the final few games of the Washington series.
“I think that when you are looking at the big picture and when you are looking at the series, I think that is what the intentions are,” Martin said.
In other news surrounding the Canadiens, Martin declined to give an update on the health of all-star defenseman Andrei Markov, who has been out of the lineup since taking a hit from the Penguins Matt Cooke
in Game 1. Martin also suggested that veteran two-way blueliner Jaroslav Spacek, who has missed seven straight games with chest congestion, is still not healthy enough to re-join the Canadiens despite taking part in the morning skate.
Finally, forward Sergei Kostitsyn, Andrei’s younger brother, who has not dressed since Game 5 against the Capitals, was not on the ice on Thursday morning.
“There is no reason or no status,” Martin said. “I met with Sergei this morning and opted to have him work out in the gym. That is the situation.”