Kukla's Korner Hockey
by The Upper Canadien on 09/28/10 at 12:18 AM ET
The Habs looked good on Monday night, putting on an offensive show in a 6-2 win over the Florida Panthers. Some veterans, Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec especially, seem to be rounding into form fairly quickly. Lars Eller? Not as fast - but remember, he was injured for two weeks, so his conditioning is likely not yet where it should be.
Then there’s Ryan White.
I’ve written about White a fair bit. His energetic play, his physical presence. Well, White has upped the ante with his offensive play, scoring another goal and providing pressure in front of the Florida net every time he was in the Panthers zone. He only logged six minutes of ice time, but this was largely due to his 20 minutes in penalties - which resulted from two fights and a game misconduct. White adds a dangerous presence to the bottom six, and I have to believe he’s very close to cementing his role on this team. As I’ve said previously, if Mathieu Darche hadn’t been signed, I would already be saying White has a spot locked up. I am starting to believe that, despite Darche’s one-way contract, White may still stick.
Andreas Engqvist is another player who looked like he belongs in the NHL. He plays the sort of game where he doesn’t get noticed much - and that’s a good thing, because he makes few mistakes. When he stands out, it’s for the right reasons. He notched an assist in eight minutes of ice time. At 6’4’’ he would add some welcome size to the Habs collection of forwards. He remains in the hunt for a spot, but he’s still a long shot.
Also of note was the play of Carey Price. Quite simply, he looked good, and at times great. He was beaten twice, the first time on a rebound few could stop - the fact he managed to stop the first shot was miraculous enough. Price ended the night with 19 saves on 21 shots, a welcome improvement from his first two appearances in net.
Expect more cuts in the next day or two, this after the Habs sent Louis Leblanc and Jarred Tinordi back to their junior teams on Monday (Aaron Palushaj and Alex Avstin were cut as well). The Canadiens are facing a numbers game on defence, where players such as Yanick Weber and Matt Carle appear NHL ready with no spots available. However, with Andrei Markov and potentially Roman Hamrlik hurt to start the season, one of these guys could find himself starting the year in Montreal, along with last year’s spare defenceman, Ran O’Byrne.
As for the forwards, this may be a financial decision that comes down to owner Geoff Molson’s comfort with swallowing contracts. There is no question that Ryan White, and perhaps a couple of others, have outplayed the likes of Mathieu Darche so far. Darche has a one way deal, meaning he makes $500,000 regardless of where he plays. There is also the risk of losing him on waivers should he be sent down. However, if Molson and the Canadiens are willing to bury the contract, you may see Darche start the year in the AHL in favour of a player like White - or, perhaps Darche will end up on another team.
As a defensively responsible journeyman known for accepting whatever role is dealt to him, Darche may appeal to teams looking for a spare forward to start the year. He had a great relationship with Guy Boucher and the coaching staff in Hamilton last year, the coaching staff now located in Tampa Bay. If I’m the Habs, and I don’t want to lose Darche, I do whatever I can to keep him on the team - because if he gets sent down, I think he gets nabbed. And the Tampa Bay Lighting are a very possible suitor.
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