LARAQUE AND KOIVU TO MISS PRESEASON OPENER MONDAY IN HALIFAX


Georges Laraque will have to wait for another day to make his debut with the Montreal Canadiens.

Both Laraque and Team Captain Saku Koivu were kept off skates today as the Canadiens wrapped up two days of workouts in Pierrefonds with a practice session and a full scrimmage. Neither will make the trip to Halifax for tomorrow’s pre-season opener against the Bruins; the jaunt to Roberval for Tuesday’s game against the Sabres; nor the flight to Detroit for Wednesday’s contest against the Red Wings.

Which leaves Friday’s exhibition game against Ottawa at the Bell Centre as a likely start date for both — provided they are ready to go at that time.

Laraque is nursing a sore groin, while Koivu is being kept off skates as a precautionary measure. The Captain did put in a full day at the office yesterday in Pierrefonds, but the coaching staff isn’t taking any chances with Koivu‘s tender right foot, which he hurt a couple of weeks ago while working out in Finland.

As a result, head coach Guy Carbonneau is going to tweak his lineup for tomorrow night and replace Laraque with Mathieu Dandenault on a line with Maxim Lapierre and Steve Begin. Look for both Dandenault and Begin to be pushed hard for ice time as fourth-liners by some of the rookies who are looking to make a mark with this club during the pre-season. Among them: Max Paccioretty, Ben Maxwell and Brock Trotter. All three were impressive in today’s scrimmage. So were youngsters Yannick Weber and PK Subban along the blueline.

The same can’t be said of Kyle Chipchura, who looked lost out there, and was on the receiving end of a big hit thrown by Begin.

The rest of the key forward lines that we will likely see tomorrow night (and likely against the Sabres the following night) were the lines we saw in today’s scrimmage: the Kostitsyn brothers will Tomas Plekanec; and Alex Tanguay with Maxwell and Pacioretty. The following will see action on the blueline: Hamlik, O’Byrne, Gorges, Valentenko, Weber, Anderson and Henry. Jaroslav Halak and Marc Denis will share the goaltending duties, with Halak to start against the Bruins.

A number of players look to be in mid-season form, including Christopher Higgins, Alex Kovalev (who dazzled the crowd with a number of his patented moves), Mike Komisarek and Andrei Markov. There was some, not a lot, of magic between linemates Kovalev and Robert Lang. Guillaume Latendresse did not look out of place as the third on that forward line.

After a grand total of one scrimmage, this bold prediction as to what the Coach’s starting lines will look like heading into the regular season:

A. Kostitsyn-S. KostitsynPlekanec
Kovalev-Lang-Lattendresse
Koivu-Higgins-Tanguay
Lapierre-Begin-Laraque

Dark horses to make this team: Max Pacioretty and Yannick Webber.

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About ahefter

I have covered hockey extensively during my 30-year sports broadcasting career. From the Miracle on Ice at Lake Placid to the Edmonton Oiler dynasty years, I've shared my views on hockey with listeners in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. You can "catch me in action" on Youtube at the following URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1n5BdB9ngYw My radio stops include TSN 690 Montreal, CJAD Montreal, CKNW Vancouver, and CKEY Toronto. I also ran the Canadian Press sports desk (radio). My travels as a network reporter have taken me to four Olympics, most recently Vancouver 2010. I'm currently an Applied Assistant Professor within the School of Communication at the University of Hartford.
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