Posted on April 19, 2008 06:14 PM | Permalink
The average age of the Montreal Canadiens will take a little jump in Saturday’s Game 6 tilt with the Boston Bruins as captain Saku Koivu, defenceman Francis Bouillon and power play trigger man Mark Streit will be in the lineup.
As the Canadiens try to close the series out and avoid a Game 7 back in Montreal on Monday, coach Guy
Carbonneau decided to sit rookie defenceman Ryan O’Byrne, 20-year-old winger Guillaume Latendresse and
winger Michael Ryder.
“I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” Koivu said Saturday after taking the morning skate and declaring himself fit to play. “The conditioning part of it doesn’t concern me at all. The adrenaline will be pumping.”
Koivu has not played since blocking a Dimitri Kalinin slap shot with his left foot March 28 in Buffalo, fracturing a bone in the foot.
His return was basically a given after Carbonneau announced Friday that it would be Koivu’s call whether or not he suits up.
In Bouillon’s case, however, Carbonneau was far less revealing and his return is a bit of a surprise and a major physical boost for the Habs. In spite of his small stature at 5-foot-8 Bouillon is one of Montreal’s most physical players, perhaps a notch below Mike Komisarek, and he finished second on the team this season with 168 hits.
The return of those two veteran guys will give Carbonneau a whole new set of options when it comes to his personnel, especially on special teams as Koivu will help the woeful power play and Bouillon will help a penalty-killing unit that allowed two Boston goals in Game 5.
“It’s great news, his and Francis Bouillon,” Carbonneau said Saturday morning. “They were a big part of why we feel we finished in first place.”
Bouillon had missed the last three games of the regular season and all five playoff games, but he’s been practicing with the team for the last week and should have little trouble with his conditioning.
Streit returns after a one-game absence with a hip injury suffered in the second period of Game 4. To make room for the returning players, Carbonneau decided to take a little bit of green out of his lineup. O’Byrne has not been horrible, but he could definitely better use his impressive size to his advantage, as he was not nearly as physical as he should have been the last two games.
The same could be said of Latendresse, who will be a healthy scratch tonight for the first time since Feb.23. Definitely the slowest skater on the team, Latendresse needs to make his presence felt by throwing his 220-pound frame around, and he simply hasn’t done that so far in the series.
Ryder will be scratched for the second time in the series tonight, though it could be argued he played like he was scratched in Game 5. He had zero impact on the game and barely played in the third period.
On the Bruins side, it is likely defenceman Aaron Ward will dress, which is huge for coach Claude Julien
because he will need his depth on defence with the return of Koivu.
It will be interesting to see how Koivu responds to the intensity of the game tonight after watching from the press box for three weeks plus a day. Koivu has historically been a great playoff performer with 36 points in 43 games, and he hasn’t tasted playoff action since 2006, when he only played three games after suffering a severe eye injury on an unintentional high stick by Carolina’s Justin Williams.
Waiting that long, and being forced to watch the first five games of this series will make Koivu hungry, but will his legs and his lungs allow him to play at the level he’s used to?