2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs Blog - Conference Quarter-finals
The Montreal Canadiens will not have the services of three of their top six defencemen for Wednesday night's potential elimination game at the Bell Centre, and Bob Gainey admits he's learned a bit of lesson on rushing players back to action.
The general manager and head coach of the Habs called defenceman Francis Bouillon between Games 1 and 2 in Boston to ask if he could play, if his torn groin and strained abdominal muscle were sufficiently healed to give it a shot.
Bouillon said he could go, and the team's doctors confirmed it, so Gainey summoned him down to Boston and inserted him into the Game 2 lineup.
It didn't go well as Bouillon lasted only four shifts, and Gainey said it was a cautionary tale in terms of asking Andrei Markov to test his injured knee or Mathieu Schneider to put his bum shoulder in harm's way Wednesday night in Game 4 against the Boston Bruins.
"I think an incident like that does make everybody stop and think about the safety of the players," Gainey said. "But my own view to get comfortable with injuries and when players play or don't play is that they don't wait one day after they're ready and they don't start one day before they're ready."
Of course, the question is a relative one because every player has his own level of pain tolerance, and Gainey's was legendary during his Hall of Fame career as a player, once playing with two separated shoulders in the playoffs.
But this is a different time and these are different players, so Schneider, Markov and Patrice Brisebois (out with a lower body injury) will not be dressed for Game 4 and Gainey will go with the same defence as the last game, though winger Alex Tanguay remains a game-time decision despite the fact he did not skate Wednesday morning.
The silver lining for Gainey is that some of the organization's young players like Yannick Weber, Matt D'Agostini, Gregory Stewart and Ryan O'Byrne are getting a chance to see what the playoffs are all about.
"This is great experience for our team," he said. "We're seeing great competition at the best time of the year by players who are going to be playing here for years, and we should savour it."
Gainey will also be going with the same goaltender as Carey Price will start despite his inflated 4.15 goals against average and .882 save percentage, the worst numbers of any playoff goalie.
His backup, Jaroslav Halak, has not started a game since April 6, and he lost four of his last six starts in the regular season. But what the Canadiens need most down 3-0 in this series is for a goalie to step up and steal four straight games, and that is something Halak has already demonstrated he can do this season.
From Feb 21-28 Halak started against the Ottawa Senators, Vancouver Canucks, Philadelphia Flyers and San Jose Sharks, winning all four almost single-handedly. The Canadiens were outshot 167-106 in those games, yet outscored their opposition 15-8.
On the Boston side, head coach Claude Julien said he'll need the afternoon to figure out who will have to give up his spot to make room for Milan Lucic, back from his one-game suspension for a cross-check to the head of Maxim Lapierre.
Julien had replaced Lucic by putting Blake Wheeler on a line with David Krejci and Michael Ryder, and he said he's not sure where Lucic will be re-inserted.
"Milan will be in the lineup," Julien said. "But as far as where he plays, I'm going to bounce a few things around this afternoon."
Julien is probably best placed to be able to warn his team of the dangers of complacency with a huge lead in a series, because as coach of the Canadiens in 2004 he came back from 3-1 down to beat the Bruins in the first round and he nearly did it last year on the opposite bench by forcing a seventh game in the same situation.
"I've been at it twice," he said. "There's no doubt it's in the back of our minds and it's something we don't want to allow happen. But at the same time, we've been grounded all year."
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