“Lower body injury.”

With those words, Canadiens’ head coach Guy Carbonneau explained the somewhat mysterious disappearance of Saku Koivu from last night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightening.

Also somewhat mysterious to The Coach, was the disappearance of his club on a night when they knew exactly what they had to do, to send the Lightening to their 10th straight loss.

“We told them there were two guys on that team that could hurt us and we had to be aware of where they were on the ice,” said Carbo when this one was over. “And those are the two guys who hurt us.”

The “two guys” were Martin St. Louis and Vincene Lecavalier, a couple of Montreal-area natives who led the formerly-slumping Bolts to a 3-1 victory over the formerly high-flying Habs. St. Louis had a pair of goals while Lecavalier had the other, after Patrice Brisebois had opened the scoring for Montreal five minutes into this one with a power play goal.

St. Louis responded with his first of the night, five minutes later, with a blast from the face off circle that eluded the grasp of Jaroslav Halak. Lecavalier made it 2-1 some 90 seconds later to give the Bolts a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. St. Louis closed the scoring eight minutes into the second when he beat Halak glove side.

This was not the same Jaroslav Halak who stoned the Calgary Flames, 4-1, two nights earlier. Prior to the game, conspiracy theorists were speculating that the Canadiens were giving Halak a second straight start to showcase the netminder.

It wasn’t a performance that was going to impressive any window shoppers. Then again you can say that about the entire team.

The coach, again.

“We weren’t ready to play this game. We knew who we had to stop, we talked about it before the game. And we didn’t respond.”

The question now is, will The Captain be ready to play in the NEXT game, Saturday night, when the Washington Capitals come town. Koivu appeared to suffer this “lower body injury” in the first period. He tried to skate through it in the second, playing in about half his scheduled shifts with linemates Matt D’Agostini and Andrei Kostitsyn. However, The Captain failed to answer the bell at The Bell for the third period.

And so the Canadiens face life, for now, without, pound for pound, their best player this season. The Coach says we’ll know more today after The Captain is examined. Koivu went into last night’s game second to Andrei Markov in team scoring with 22 points on seven goals and 15 assists. While the Coach has played musical lines for much of this season in an effort to squeeze more production out of his club (paging Alex Kovalev), Koivu has excelled regardless of who Carbonneau throws out there as his line mates.

Ah yes, Alex Kovalev. Eighteen straight games without a goal, although he did earn an assist on the Brisebois marker last night. A large number of Habs’ fans are ready to send Kovalev to the press box (while others are ready to send him to Siberia) as a result of the frustration that Kovalev has put them through. The truth is, Alex Kovalev has played some of his best hockey over the last five games. Granted, that’s not saying a whole heck of a lot. But it’s a step in the right direction.

Putting Kovalev in the press box now will accomplish absolutely nothing. You don’t need to “send a signal” to Alex Kovalev. You need to put him right back on the ice for the next opportunity to end this drought. Kovalev has always claimed that, when the goals come (and they will come) they’ll come in bunches.

His next chance to come up with a bunch of goals comes tomorrow night against Washington.

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