No surprise to see Chris Higgins skating with Saku Koivu and Alex Tanguay as the Canadiens were back on the ice at practice today at the Bell Centre, preparing for their next game Friday night in Columbus against the Blue Jackets.
Higgins was reunited with Koivu in the third period of Saturday night’s game against the New York Islanders, and the move paid instant dividends, as The Captain set up Higgins with the tying goal at 14:06 of the third period. Alex Kovalev sealed the deal some 73 seconds later, completing a spectacular comeback, resulting in a 5-4 win by the Habs, leaving the team with a perfect four-point record midway through this four-game road trip.
The goal was Higgins’ first of the season, in only his fourth game of the season. The New York-area native started the campaign on a shelf as a result of a lingering groin injury, which prompted head coach Guy Carbonneau to wonder at one point, while Higgins was on the sidelines, whether the injury had become more of a mental issue with his alternate captain, than a physical one.
When Higgins did return to action, he skated on a line with Robert Lang and Sergei Kostitsyn that showed little spark as a unit. Sergei just doesn’t seem to be the same player he was when he started the season, while Lang has quietly put up three goals and three assists in opening 10 games. The reality is, S. Kostitsyn and Lang were more effective when Tom Kostopoulos was the third on that trio.
However, when a player of Higgins’ caliber is ready to rejoin the lineup, you make room for him. As much grit and determination that Kostopoulos has brought to the team, he’s a guy destined for the fourth line, which is where he now finds himself: fighting for elbow room among the other fourth-liners. However instead of reuniting Higgins with Koivu (the two have played together extensively in recent seasons) The Coach opted to keep the Koivu-Tanguay-Latendresse line intact because, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
That was four games ago.
Since then, Latendresse, who started the season in fine fashion, is struggling and has but one goal to his credit. Sure, he delivers the odd big check out there, but so does Tom Kostopoulos. The Canadiens need more out of Guillaume Latendresse than the occasional big hit. And if today’s practice is any indication (and I’m willing to bet it is) Latendresse will have to find his game playing with Lang and Sergei K.