AND THEN THERE WERE 26


Habs fans hoping for perhaps a final glimpse of Max Pacioretty in game action were disappointed as the Canadiens closed out pre-season play last night at the Bell Center with a 3-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild.

After the morning skate, head coach Guy Carbonneau announced that Pacioretty, who had survived the first two rounds of cuts to earn a trip to Mount Tremblant for the team’s weekend bonding session, would not be in the lineup against the Wild. Pacioretty, the 19-year-old from Connecticut, had made a strong case for himself with an impressive training-camp showing. But there would be no number 67 on the ice against the Wild.

Too bad. The Habs could have used him.

With visions of an October 10th regular-season-opening date in Buffalo against the Sabres clearly dancing in the heads, the Canadiens simply went through the motions last night against the Wild, failing to generate any goals, or many quality scoring chances. They did direct 46 shots at Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom. Unfortunately for the Canadiens, only 25 of them hit the net.

Yannick Weber, the young Swiss defenceman, did get a chance to suit up. But that’s only because of ongoing injury problems that left Andrei Markov, Francis Boullion, and Ryan O’Byrne on the sidelines. Of the three, the injury to Boullion is clearly the most troubling to the Habs. The popular rearguard will not be ready to answer the bell for the regular season.

As for Weber, for the record, he saw 18:32 of ice time last night and finished a minus one. The owner of a wicked shot, Weber, down the road, could be the missing link on the point on the power play. But for now, look for The Coach to slot any number of forwards into that position with Sergie Kostitsyn showing the most promise.

By the end of the night, Pacioretty, Weber, and goalie Marc Denis were on their way to the team’s American Hockey League farm team in Hamilton. With the three cuts, the Canadiens are left with a 26-man roster; a roster that includes a number of injured players, including Georges Laraque, who has yet to see game action as one of the newest Habs. Mind you, there was a flurry of excitement in the Canadiens locker room following the morning skate yesterday. There was Laraque at his stall, putting on a Canadiens’ uniform. On his feet however, were a pair of running shoes.

It was merely for a photo shoot.

Whether Laraque is able to complete the look with a pair of skates, in time for the team’s season opener in Buffalo, remains to be seen.

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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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