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Pittsburgh vs. Montreal Preview

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins (9-2-0-18) vs. Montreal Canadiens (6-5-0-12)

Where: Mellon Arena
Wednesday, October 28, 7:30 p.m.
WXDX Radio, FM 105.9
FSN Pittsburgh, the game will be broadcast in HD, available on Armstrong 179, Atlantic Broadband 782, Citizen 737, Comcast 226/774, DISH 428, DirecTV 659 and Verizon Fios 576.

*View FSN's Broadcast Schedule here()

Season Series:
The Penguins and Canadiens face off for the first time in the 2009-10 season. Each team won twice last year, winning once at home and once at the other’s building. Head coach Dan Bylsma recorded his first NHL coaching victory against Montreal in the Penguins’ 5-4 win on Feb. 19, 2009.




Last Meeting: MTL 1, PIT 3
Game Highlights  
AP Recap

Long Shots on Price: Carey Price is one of the better young netminders in the National Hockey League. He has proven that leading the Canadiens to the playoffs each of the past two seasons. The Penguins might have exposed a potential shortcoming in his game by having success on long shots the final two meetings of ’08-09. Sergei Gonchar won the Feb.19 game when his slapper eluded Price, and Kris Letang clinched the regular-season finale when his shorthanded shot from just over the Canadiens’ blue line got through.

Attack the Net:
Montreal will be without two of their top defensemen, Andrei Markov and Ryan O’Byrne, when they take on the Penguins. Of the healthy blueliners, only Hal Gill poses much a shutdown threat. The Penguins need to take advantage of this to attack the net, collect rebounds and create havoc in front of Price. Most of their chances against New Jersey were perimeter shots with limited traffic in front of Martin Brodeur, something they must change against Montreal.     
Expectations were through the roof for the Canadiens in ’08-09, one season after posting the best regular-season record in the Eastern Conference. Production did not match the hype as the Canadiens finished the season in eighth place before being swept in the first round by archrival Boston. Among the most historic franchises in professional sports history, the Canadiens have won a league-record 23 Stanley Cup championships, but their fans are feeling restless as the 17 years since their last title is the longest draught in club history.

Former St. Louis Blues, Ottawa Senators and Florida Panthers bench boss Jacques Martin steps in to replace general manager Bob Gainey, who coached the team on an interim basis at the end of last season. Martin brings 1,109 games, 523 coaching wins and three division championships into Wednesday night’s game. However, in his three seasons behind the bench in Florida, the team failed to reach the playoffs in all three campaigns.
This summer could be dubbed “Extreme Makeover: Montreal Edition.” The Canadiens severed ties with five of their top nine leading scorers from 08-09, electing to not re-sign Alex Kovalev, Saku Koivu, Alex Tanguay, Robert Lang and Mathieu Schnieder. Among the many new faces brought in to replace them are three former Stanley Cup champions in Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez and Hal Gill.

Gionta and Gomez had past success as linemates in New Jersey, particularly in 2005-06 when Gionta scored a career-high 48 goals and 89 points while Gomez registered 51 assists and 84 points. High-scoring Mike Cammalleri was signed to round out the Habs' new top line. Cammalleri enjoyed a monster season with Calgary in ’08-09, scoring 39 times and assisting on 43 others playing mostly on a line with Jarome Iginla. As a trio, the line has as much overall speed as any in the league.

Former Penguin Gill proved throughout the 2009 playoffs how effective he can be against the game’s top offensive threats, teaming with Rob Scuderi to keep Eric Staal, Pavel Datsyuk and Marian Hossa in check during the final two rounds. Gill has already earned the respect of his new teammates, being elected an alternate captain. Jaroslav Spacek, who spent the past three seasons in Buffalo, is equally effective supplying offense as he is playing tough defense in his own zone. He posted a career-high 45 points (8G-37A) for the Sabres in ’08-09.
Czech-native Tomas Plekanec is off to a great start for the Canadiens after his production took a step backwards last season. He leads the team through 11 games with eight assists, while his 10 points are second only to Mike Cammalleri. Plekanec and Scott Gomez give the Canadiens a great one-two punch down the middle. Gomez never quite fit in while in the Big Apple after signing with the Rangers three summers ago, but appears plenty comfortable reunited with Brian Gionta. He has recorded five assists and seven points through Monday. Gionta saw his numbers drop four-consecutive seasons for the Devils, from a career-high 48 goals in ’05-06 to 20 last year, the second-lowest full-season total of his career. With four goals in the first 11 games, Gionta should easily surpass that total.

Penguin killer Andrei Kostitsyn has to be happy coming to Mellon Arena. He led all scorers in last year’s season series, scoring five goals and seven points in the four games. Through 11 games the Belarusian has only scored one time and assisted on three others. He was recently demoted to the fourth line. Montreal has gotten surprising offense from its third line of Travis Moen, Max Pocioretty and Glen Metropolit. One of the league’s grittiest players, Moen is third on the team with three goals through 11 games and also leads the Canadiens with 27 hits. After scoring only 17 points in 76 games with the Canadiens and Flyers last season, Metropolit has six (1G-5A) through the first 11 games in ’09-10.
Montreal was dealt a harsh blow when Andrei Markov was sidelined indefinitely when he severed a tendon on the skate of Carey Price in the opener. Only Mike Green of Washington finished with more points than the 64 (12G-52A) registered by Markov last year. To replace his offense the Canadiens signed power-play specialist Marc-Andre Bergeron. In four games with Montreal, Bergeron has contributed two goals and an assist.

Veteran Roman Hamrlik has started strong in the early going, leading all Canadiens’ blueliners with three goals, including the game-winner in overtime Monday night in a 3-2 victory over the NY Islanders. The 35-year-old Hamrlik leads the Canadiens in ice time at 24:58. Jaroslav Spacek had a quiet beginning to the season but has four points (1G-3A) and a team-best plus-5 rating.

Hal Gill and Paul Mara were added to provide muscle to the back end. Each has certainly provided that, as they rank 1-2 (Mara, 23; Gill, 19) in penalty minutes for Montreal. Mara, who possesses decent puck skills, leads all Canadien defenders with five assists.
Carey Price saw his play drop off in ’08-09 after a strong rookie season which saw him win 24 games while leading the Canadiens to the top record in the conference and a seven-game opening-round defeat of the Boston Bruins. Last season saw him finish with a record of 23-16-10 with a 2.83 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage.  

Price has not had the start he was looking for in ’09-10, winning just two of his first six starts as his goals-against figure hovers well above three at 3.36 to go with his .886 save percentage. He has split time recently to Jaroslav Halak.

After losing his first start of the season, Halak has now won four games in a row while posting a 2.28 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage. He also finished last season with the better numbers of the two goaltenders, going 18-4-1 with a 2.86 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage.
Calgary did not particularly want to lose Mike Cammalleri after he scored 39 times in ’08-09, but they did not have room to fit him under the salary cap after trading for Jay Bouwmeester at the draft. A two-time 80-plus point scorer, Cammalleri spent his first five NHL seasons playing for the Los Angeles Kings. However the Kings, probably regrettably, gave up on Cammalleri after his numbers dipped to 19 goals and 47 points in ’07-08.

Undersized but extremely explosive at 5-foot-9, Cammalleri leads the Canadiens in scoring through 11 games with 12 points on five goals and seven assists. He was recently named ‘Second Star’ for the week ending Oct. 25, registering four goals and two assists in three games, including his first hat trick with Montreal in a win over the Rangers on Oct. 24. Cammalleri has scored 25 of more goals three of his four full seasons.
Montreal continues to play without the services of two of their top defensemen. Andre Markov suffered a torn tendon in his leg when he was cut by the skate of Carey Price in a game against the Maple Leafs on Oct. 1. He underwent surgery and is expected to be out of the lineup until sometime in February, putting his Olympic hopes in jeopardy. Huge Ryan O’Byrne suffered a knee injury two nights later in Buffalo and should be back in the lineup by mid-November.
“They are a talented team – very fast. They added speedsters like Hal Gill so we will probably have a guy on him Wednesday night just to shut him down. They are a fast team and a very talented team.”

- Penguins winger Bill Guerin addressing the speed Montreal has added to the lineup over the summer.

5-0: Montreal’s overtime record in 2009-10, best in the NHL. 

Author: Jason Seidling

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