First things first: Andrei Kostitsyn.
Canadiens hold an optional practice this morning at the Bell Centre. Safe to predict AK46 won’t be skating, but perhaps the Kremlin will deign to provide an update on his condition.
Looking at the replay, I think the damage was done when his head hit the glass. He certainly looked like he’d been concussed, and that’s a tricky injury.
AK46 could be unavailable for a while, which will mean his brother joining Tomas Plekanec and Alex Kovalev. Christopher Higgins likely will play with Robert Lang and Tom Kostopoulos.
There is no question, at this point, of Higgins being reunited with Saku Koivu.
Guillaume Latendresse is playing the best hockey of his young career, and the whole line is on fire. A week after lighting it up with 10 points in Toronto, Koivu, Gui! and Alex Tanguay had six points against the Coyotes.
Koivu, who missed most of training camp and was conspicuous by his absence at practice Friday morning, is off to one of the best starts of his career. And a key to his early success may be ice time.
Last night, the Captain played 12:44. In Toronto it was 12:54. Against Philadelphia and Boston, 13:58 and 15:30. Carbo talked, after the game, about managing the minutes of a player who is no longer 20 years old and has a history of injuries and illness.
It seems to be working. Koivu looks fresh, revitalized and has taken remarkably little time to figure out Tanguay’s dance moves. With Fred and Ginger smoothly sashaying through the offensive zone, Gui! adds a physical dimension and a good pair of hands.
I’ve always liked Gui! It’s not easy being the spotlight francophone player on the Montreal Canadiens. Gui! has handled it with an aplomb that belies his tender years. His confidence is growing from shift to shift and game to game, and this is shaping up a breakthrough season for a good kid who became a father, at the ripe old age of 21, last summer.
Other things I liked last night:
• Andrei Markov: Two more assists, bringing his total to a team-leading eight. And he’s tied with the Captain for a team-best plus-7. Norris Trophy stats.
• Big Georges Laraque: There’s a new sheriff in town, and the word will spread quickly around the league. He got a bit of a toasting from a caller to CKAC for not jumping on Kurt Sauer after the Kostitsyn hit But Sauer, no fool he, declined an invitation to dance; and BGL was unequivocal after the game in stating he won’t fight a guy who doesn’t want to fight because he’d end up with extra penalties that might cost the team.
In addition to using his head and his fists (in a demolition of hapless Todd Fedoruk), Laraque used his legs last night. He played 11:36 and has a few shifts of strong puck possession in the Phoenix end.
So the Canadiens have the the heavyweight champ and Carbo is still rolling four line. Sweet.
• Carey Price: You tend to overlook him in a game that was a bit of a circus. But the prodigy made huge saves in the first period, when Phoenix – after a slow start – had 13 shots. His cousin, Shane Doan, deprived Price of the shutout he deserved. But Price lowered his GAA to 1.92 and has a .939 save percentage. Vancouver 2010? Hey, ya never know …
• Sergei Kostitsyn: An ordinary game, by his elevated standards, but imagine the emotions he was dealing with after his brother got hurt. Saku Koivu, doing what a captain does, talked to SK74 on the bench, chilling him out and telling him that stuff happens in hockey.
• Tom Kostopoulos: Tom the Bomb ended up going with Sauer and ran his pugilistic record to 0-124-2. What a team guy! And don’t think it’s unappreciated in the room.
• Mike Komisarek: Seven hits, five blocked shots and pleased his coach by not being goaded into a fight by Fedoruk. The team has someone who takes care of that now.
• Stat: From François Gagnon: Saku Koivu has passed Maurice Richard to become seventh all-time in assists. He has 422 and needs 435 to overtake Yvan Cournoyer. The way that line is playing, the Captain will beep-beep the Roadrunner in the first week of November.
Florida Panthers at the Bell Centre tomorrow night.