Is there a doctor in the house?
A flu-stricken Saku Koivu returned to the lineup against the Devils.
MONTREAL - Over the course of his almost 30 years in the NHL as a player and a coach, Guy Carbonneau thought he'd seen it all. That is, until a recent stomach bug attacked the Canadiens' dressing room.
"I've never seen anything like this," said Carbonneau having seeing his flu-ridden club drop three consecutive games for the first time this season. "This type of thing can happen to three or four guys, but the entire room has been hit from this one. It's pretty hard to believe."
The problems began in Washington Thursday night when his players began dropping like flies during a 5-1 loss to the Capitals.
"Since that game in Washington when guys started puking between periods, all of us started getting sick," said captain Saku Koivu, who returned to the lineup Sunday afternoon after finally succumbing to the vicious virus himself and sitting out Saturday's loss to the Rangers. "You could see the last few days that we just didn't have our usual energy out there. This has been tough on all of us and hopefully we can this get thing out of our systems in time for Tuesday."
The undermanned Habs left Carbonneau with few options against the Devils and his line combinations reflected exactly that.
"The main thing I wanted to do was limit the length of everyone's shifts to conserve energy," explained Carbonneau. "I mean, we dressed eight defensemen and had two of them playing forward. We did all we could to keep the players as fresh as we could, but there isn't much you can do when half the team is sick."
Anxious to leave this team-crippling virus behind, Carbonneau isn't willing to take any chances and ordered his players to stay as far from the rink as possible on Monday.
"Everyone needs to get some rest and get healthy," said Carbonneau. "That will also give our people the chance to really clean the dressing room and make sure everything is disinfected."
His team having to play three games in four nights, including a rare pair of weekend matinees, also didn't help matters any.
"The schedule makers didn't look at this week on the calendar and say 'I know, let's make them play three games in four nights because they're all going to be sick'," joked Carbonneau, despite also feeling under the weather himself. "We need to let it run its course and get our strength back."
Aware the Canadiens' recent slide has tightened things up in the Eastern Conference standings, Carbonneau remains pleased with where his team currently sits at the season's halfway point.
"We're right there in the standings and still hold games in hand," said Carbonneau. "Hopefully guys will start feeling better soon and we can put this thing behind us once and for all."
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com