Quick shifts: Time for hobbled Habs to fight

Brendan Gallagher of the Montreal Canadiens fights for the puck while Gabriel Bourque, Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators protect the net at the Bell Centre. (Francoise Lacasse/Getty Images)

A quick mix of the things we gleaned from the week of hockey, serious and satirical, and rolling four lines deep.

1. Daniel Briere (concussion), Brandon Prust (shoulder), Max Pacioretty (hamstring), George Parros (concussion), Douglas Murray (upper body), and Alexei Emelin (knee) are all out of the Montreal Canadiens’ lineup. This is a club that has played eight games and is led in scoring by a defenceman. They face some West Coast monsters this week as they host the Anaheim Ducks and the San Jose Sharks — the two teams who, in October, appear the most complete.
This is an important stretch for what’s left of the Habs’ group. Leave the Bell Centre with a strong home stand, and they’ll feel like world beaters. Fall from seventh in the East to ninth, and they’ll feel like the odds are rigged against them.

2. Martin St. Louis will not die. The Tampa Bay Lightning captain remains in the top 10 in scoring, tied in points with teammate Steven Stamkos and Alex Ovechkin (10). At age 38, he’s playing more than 20 minutes a game and is a big reason Tampa is in seventh place. Many view St. Louis as a Team Canada bubble guy for some reason. He shouldn’t be. On the weekend, he played through a reported foot injury against Boston. Neither his desire nor his skill has waned.

3. No wonder Roman Hamrlik wanted to end the lockout ASAP. The veteran defenceman was roasted for encouraging NHLPA boss Donald Fehr to settle in December, and he called it a career Monday. A 20-year vet who played just 16 games last season, Hamrlik was the member of an elite society: The Three-Lockout Club. The remaining active members—Sergei Gonchar, Jaromir Jagr, Ray Whitney, Teemu Selanne, Ryan Smyth among them—could conceivably all be done in a year’s time.

4. While the a final decision has yet to be made as to whether the Calgary Flames will keep rookie Sean Monahan or the Toronto Maple Leafs will hang on to Morgan Rielly (hard to imagine either being sent down now), the Washington Capitals have committed to 19-year-old Tom Wilson even though the winger has yet to register an NHL point. Pittsburgh defenceman Olli Maatta (three points in eight games), too, will stay in the big league, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune. Interesting that the injured Kris Letang pushed the coaching staff to keep Maatta around.

5. Love like you’ll never be hurt, sing like there’s nobody listening, and dance like nobody’s watching your team lose nine of your first 10 games:

6. The greatest NHL rivalry right now is in the Central Division. Chicago owns the Stanley Cup and has a slight edge in the standings; St. Louis has beaten Chicago twice already this season—both 3-2 nail-biters. Before puck drop for the second game, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said he believed the Blues were more focused on the extracurricular facets than the “important stuff” in Game 1.
Blues coach Ken Hitchock’s retort: “We’ll try not to hit Jonathan today.”
Pray they meet in the postseason.

7. Fly-on-the-wall wish of the week: Eavesdropping on Gary Bettman hearing repeat offender Patrick Kaleta appeal his 10-game ban. Maple Leafs forward David Clarkson said he didn’t want to appeal his (automatic) 10-game suspension because it would distract from the team. Guessing Kaleta was told to appeal his suspension in order to distract from the team.

8. Unlike the Flyers and Oilers, who seem pressed to turn things around yesterday, the Florida Panthers know their limitations and have accepted them. Reportedly ready for a fire sale on veterans, the Panthers are the NHL equivalent of Hilary Clinton: secretly planning a 2016 run. Pity the gate receipts until then.

9. Brent Burns is cutting his unruly mane for charity. Love when there’s a silver lining to adopting the grooming habits of Joaquin Phoenix on a grizzly hunt.

10. Tuesday brings us a rematch worth waiting for. Because the shortened 2012-13 denied fans inter-conference play, Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle will face the team that fired him in 2011 for the first time—and they couldn’t be hotter. The Ducks, who replaced Carlyle with Bruce Boudreau (fired just days before Carlyle was), have won seven consecutive games and are out-shooting their opponents something awful. Toronto 35.9 shots against per game are the third-worst in the NHL; Anaheim’s 37.6 shots for are the second best. Not a stretch to say Jonathan Bernier will have to stand on his head.

11. Think the Canucks aren’t buying into the Tortorella Way? Vancouver already leads the NHL in penalty killing (91.4%) and Chris Tanev (23) and Kevin Bieksa (20) rank among the league’s top shot-blockers. But it comes with a price. Like last year’s Rangers (and last year’s Canucks, for that matter), Vancouver has been relatively ineffective on the power play.

12. Mike Smith to HC @ Noon on his catch-and-shoot empty-net goal, which he compared to a walk-off home run: “I didn’t see the puck cross the line. The guys were all in my face,” he said, crediting his bat. “It’s all in the curve. It’s mostly the stick.”

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