The Montreal Canadiens looked unsteady in their first game
following a serious injury to one of their best young forwards.
Perhaps they could draw some inspiration from the Pittsburgh
Penguins, who continue to fare remarkably well without their two
Both teams look to continue their pursuits of division leaders
Saturday as they finish their season series at Consol Energy
The Canadiens (37-24-7) are still dealing with the aftermath of
Tuesday’s hit by Boston’s Zdeno Chara, which left Max Pacioretty
with a severe concussion and cracked vertebra.
While the NHL opted not to suspend Chara, Montreal police have
launched a criminal investigation into the hit – a step Pacioretty
“I was disappointed that the NHL did not suspend Zdeno Chara,”
Pacioretty said in a statement. “However, I have no desire for him
to be prosecuted legally. I feel that the incident, as ugly as it
was, was part of a hockey game.”
Pacioretty ranks fourth on the team in points per game and fifth
with 14 goals, and the 22-year-old winger had been emerging lately
with eight tallies in his last 13 games.
Perhaps preoccupied by concerns about their teammate, who is out
indefinitely after being released from the hospital Thursday, the
Canadiens couldn’t extend their winning streak to six Thursday in
St. Louis, losing 4-1.
“You’re concerned about him, but at the end of the day, we’re
professionals,” captain Brian Gionta said. “We’re going to go out
there and put things behind us. I just think our effort wasn’t
Montreal, in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, is still
hoping to catch the first-place Bruins in the Northeast Division,
while the Penguins (39-21-8) are within four points of Atlantic-
and East-leading Philadelphia.
Pittsburgh has remained among the conference’s elite despite a
lengthy stretch without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. While
Malkin is out for the season following knee surgery, Crosby’s
chances of returning from a concussion remain uncertain.
Since the Penguins lost their first three games without Crosby,
they’re 13-7-4, including wins over Boston and Buffalo in their
last two. They beat the Sabres 3-1 on Tuesday, getting key
second-period goals from James Neal and defenseman Zbynek Michalek,
who each scored for the first time with Pittsburgh.
Neal was playing his seventh game since arriving via trade from
Dallas, while Michalek has played 59 after signing as a free agent
in the offseason.
“Both of those guys were pretty relieved and had pretty big
smiles on their faces,” coach Dan Bylsma said.
Bylsma may be especially comfortable behind the bench Saturday
in his first game after he was rewarded with a three-year contract
“I think what we’ve been able to accomplish so far his season,”
general manager Ray Shero said, “even with players like Sidney
Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal out of the lineup for
extended periods of time, is a testament to his coaching system,
his adaptability, and his composure under pressure.”
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury also has helped, ranking among the
NHL’s top 10 in wins (30) and goals-against average (2.33). The
Montreal-area native, however, has struggled against his hometown
team, going 13-11-1 with a 3.22 GAA including playoffs.
The Penguins are 1-1-1 in the season series. They ended a
four-game losing streak to Montreal, which included the final two
games of their East semifinal series last season, with a 5-2 win in
the most recent meeting Jan. 12.