In case Guillaume Latendresse forgot that he was in his hometown and the city where he started his NHL career, he was reminded this morning by about 30 media members crowded around his locker. Latendresse became weary of the Montreal media and expectations from the hockey-crazed city, and was thrilled to get a fresh start in Minnesota when he was traded to the Wild in November. Tonight, he returns to face his former team with a new uniform and a restored confidence after scoring three goals, an assist, a shootout game-winner, and bringing plenty of grit in the “tough areas.” Benoit Pouliot, who came over to the Canadiens in the trade, has yet to play in Montreal due to a wrist injury that he sustained while still with the Wild, and he won’t be in the lineup tonight.
The Wild made a pit stop at the Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday and picked up two points after beating the Columbus Blue Jackets in the final minute of regulation. Marek Zidlicky’s seeing-eye slapper with 39 seconds remaining was the capper in a win that was less than pleasing to the eyes of Head Coach Todd Richards. Latendresse also scored, and Mikko Koivu assisted on both Wild goals. Niklas Backstrom made 21 saves, giving him two goals against in his last three starts.
The Canadiens are coming off a 2-1 loss to the Devils in New Jersey last night. Travis Moen scored the lone goal for Montreal. Carey Price stopped 25 shots, but gave up a nightmarish goal on a dump-in that deflected off his glove, off the post, off the back of his leg and into the net.
Wild at Canadiens will be broadcast locally on Fox Sports North at 6:00 PM. The game can be heard on WCCO 830 AM, or online at Wild.com.
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If You’re Going
It’s not the Montreal Forum, but the Bell Centre still feels like a Mecca with 24 Stanley Cup banners hanging alongside retired numbers worn by guys named LaFleur, Richard, Savard and Roy to name a very few. You should also be sure to check out the Canadiens Hall of Fame, which is among the best of any team in any sport.
Meet The Habs
If they were in the Western Conference, the Canadiens would be wallowing in 14th place, but as it stands now, they are just two points out of a playoff spot in the East. The Canadiens sought to improve their team this year by adding a couple Americans in Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez. It hasn’t worked out as well as hoped, as Gionta has missed 16 games with a foot injury, and Gomez has scored just four goals in 31 games.
The Habs are led by Mike Cammalleri, who is currently on pace for a 40-goal season with 18 through 35 games, but production falls considerably after that. Former Wild D Marc-Andre Bergeron ranks tied for third on the team with seven goals.
With two assists in Wednesday’s win, Koivu continues to pile up points and climb the NHL scoring charts. Now with 32 points (9-23=32) on the year, Koivu has moved to a tie for 25th on the League scoring list, while his assist total puts him at a tie for 11th. The captain now has three goals and eight assists over the last 10 games.
Latendresse won’t be dealing with the same issue that plagued him earlier in the season with the Habs: ice time. Latendresse was barely getting double-digit minutes in each game and spent a lot of time on the fourth line. In Minnesota, he has developed chemistry with Martin Havlat, and is seeing plenty of power play action.
Keep An Eye On
Derek Boogaard hasn’t lost many fights over his NHL career, but he’s had his share of struggles with Georges Laraque. The two heavyweights have squared off at least four times, and Boogaard has yet to win one outright.
Probable Wild Line Combos
Owen Nolan did not make the trip with the club due to a lower body injury. Andrew Ebbett is ready to return, but Head Coach Todd Richards said he’d take another two days before getting him back in the lineup:
Clayton Stoner, who was called up from Houston yesterday, will make his NHL debut tonight:
Between The Pipes
Backstrom will start his third straight game.
View From The Press Box
John Scott will be out of the lineup tonight, as well as Ebbett.
Owen Nolan did not make the trip with the team as he stays home and recovers from a lower body injury. Ebbett is out, but is expected to play in Ottawa on Saturday. Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Brent Burns and Petr Sykora remain out with concussions.
Richards’ Quote of the Day
“I sensed a guy that had something to prove. A great attitude. A great work ethic. None of those things have been an issue at all. Nothing that I’ve seen.”
-- Todd Richards on the attitude of Latendresse since he arrived in Minnesota
Honorary State of Hockey Residents
Bergeron scored 14 goals for Minnesota last season, which is the second-highest total for a Wild defenseman in franchise history.
Seven of the Wild’s 12 one-goal wins this season have come in overtime or shootout. Only Montreal has more with eight.