About tonight … with audio

This is not a fearless prediction.
Rather, it is a fond wish for the sake of all concerned:
Andrei Kostitsyn will not score his 100th career goal in the uniform of the team that drafted him.
Trade him, Pierre … or Bob … or Geoff .. or whoever is running this woebegotten team as the hours tick down to the trade deadline.

AK46 has size, speed and one of the league’s better wristers. We’ve seen flashes of the talent that made him the 10th  choice of the first round in 2003.

But we didn’t see any of that during the third period in Sunrise Sunday evening.

With the Canadiens trailing by two goals and presumably still interested in getting enough points to climb out of last place, Kostitsyn spent the last 12 minutes on the bench.

He finished the game with 11:10 ToI.

Louis Leblanc played 11:11.

I’ve been accused, over the five season HIO has existed, of exhibiting a certain degree of tumescence where AK46 is concerned. And I’ll admit to finding his play tremendously exasperating.

But annoyance has evolved into compassion.

Give this man a break. Let him go a team where his offensive skills will complement a slick centre and a power forward on the other wing.

Kostitsyn turned 27 on Feb. 3.  The day before, in a 5-3 loss to New Jersey, Kostitsyn scored his 12th goal of the season and 99th regular-season goal since joining the team after the lockout.

He’s still waiting for number 100: 12 games of futility to go along with an 11-game drought earlier this season. He has two goals in 2012.

Trade him. Put the poor guy out of his misery.

And while I’m pretending to be the Canadiens general manager – a role that fell to me when Tony Marinaro decided to order a pizza and watch the Oscars – may I suggest what I’d like to see coming back in any deal involving AK46 … or any other impending UFA who might draw a sniff on Monday, such as Chris Campoli, Mathieu Darche or Travis Moen:

A draft choice high enough for the Canadiens to select a forward or defenceman with size, sand and at least 150 PiM in either the Ontario or Western leagues.

With the exception of a very few players – notably Erik Cole, Alexei Emelin, Ryan White and Moen when he’s healthy – the Canadiens are undersized and lack sand. Against Florida, they were ineffectual on the forecheck, passive in the neutral zone and soft on the back end.

Regardless of whom they’re playing, the Canadiens don’t scare anyone. This was painfully evident in the first period of the Sunday game in Sunrise.

The Canadiens scooted out to a 2-1 lead, but Florida had a 19-10 advantage in hits. And at the end of the period, a game but outclassed White gave away pounds and inches in a losing fight against Erik Gudbranson.

The Canadiens ended the game with a 38-30 hit advantage. But the message had been sent: the Panthers were going to play in the image of their coach.

In more than 1,200 regfular-season and playoff games, Kevin Dineen spent almost 2,400 minutes in NHL penalty boxes.

That’s 40 hours … for a 5’11” guy who played at 190 lbs.

Florida is not a dirty team. But they’re tough to play against. They contest every inch of the ice – and very few of those battles were won by white jerseys that did not bear the number 72 or 74.

Look, I’m not suggesting the erstwhile Flying Frenchmen become the Mountain St. Maulers.

But part of  rebuilding this 15th-place club for 2012-’13 and beyond has to be a good dose of backbone-stiffening.

For his manchette on the postgame L’Antichambre, Vincent Damphousse wrote “Plus robuste, et ça presse ..”

The quote – “Tougher, and it’s urgent …” –  was superimposed on head shots of Raphael Diaz, Tomas Kaberle and Yannick Weber. Damphousse’s message was clear: The Canadiens are too soft, especially on the back end

What you have to love about Cole, arguably the Canadiens’ MVP, and Emelin, indisputably the player who has improved most since the season began, is the pride, professionalism and cojones they’ve displayed during the slump that has dropped the team out of playoff contention.

The upstate New Yorker and the Russian play the kind of in-your-face hockey Montreal fans used to see from the likes of Mario Tremblay, Mike McPhee and Lyle Odelein.

See, the thing about being a soft team is it makes for very fragile confidence.

The Canadiens had the first eight shots of the game en route to a 2-0 lead. From that point on, Florida outshot them 32-12 and scored four unaswered goals.

Twenty-two times this season, the Canadiens have lost games they were leading. The scouting report on this team:

“Nervous, weak-willed, severely lacking in self-belief.  Stay close and we’ll get them eventually.”

I’m not expecting your Montreal Canadiens to make any blockbuster trades on Monday.

But when the team boards a bus to take them to the Sunrise airport at 3:15, I hope a few faces are missing for the flight to Tampa.

I can’t imagine they’ll be missed.

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