Shuffling the deck
Adding injury to insult, the 2-1 decision potentially wasn’t the only thing the Habs lost on Saturday night. After playing just 16:12 in Game 5, Hal Gill left Mellon Arena with a gash on the back of his leg caused by an errant Chris Kunitz skate. The shot-blocking specialist is now considered day-to-day after spending the night receiving treatment in a Pittsburgh area hospital before making the solo trek back to Montreal on Sunday morning.
Meanwhile back home, Andrei Markov hit the ice in his track suit with Canadiens’ head athletic therapist Graham Rynbend. Joining the injured All-Star in full equipment in Brossard was another blue-liner who has been missing in action for much longer, Paul Mara – although neither defenseman has a clear date set for their return to action just yet. However, at least one key leader in the anti-Ovechkin movement of Round 1 does appear to be nearing a comeback just in time to shut out another of the league’s biggest stars.
“I’ve been feeling a lot better since last week and I’m feeling more comfortable,” revealed Jaroslav Spacek, who has been shelved with a virus for nine games already this postseason “The face you’re looking at right now is the exact same one you’ve seen all season long.
“I have the green light from the doctors. But I have to give my own green light, too,” explained Spacek. “Before I go out and play, I have to be sure I’m ready to play. I’m really close to coming back, but I have to be sure I’m 100% so I can help the team.”
A healthy Spacek would be a big boost to the Canadiens’ ailing blue line that will be looking to continue frustrating Sidney Crosby, especially if Gill is in a suit instead of his uniform on Monday night.
“We have a lot of depth. If [Gill] can’t go tomorrow, other guys in the room will have to step up and take on some of that leadership,” shrugged Gill’s defense partner, Josh Gorges. “For sure it’ll be different if he’s not in the lineup. He’s a great partner and he makes things easier for me. He’s really vocal and he takes up a lot of space on the ice. Half the time you don’t even have to look to know where you’re going because he’s pretty much already told you.”
So, with Gill and Markov potentially out of the lineup, where will the leadership come from in the Habs’ dressing room? According to Jacques Martin, exactly where it always has: everywhere.
“When we lost Markov at the start of the series, everyone said we were done. We proved them wrong; we thrive in adversity,” professed Martin. “We have a group that rose to the occasion against Washington. Now it’s up to our leaders to step it up again and for our role players to give us even more tomorrow night.”
Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Shauna Denis.
Tripped up in Pittsburgh
Keeping the faith