One day after “Plan A” announced his signing with the Vancouver Canucks, Bob Gainey’s “Plan B” celebrated a birthday; his first as a member of the Montreal Canadiens.
Plan A was Mats Sundin. You remember Mats Sundin, right? The guy who refused to waive his no-trade clause last March because he just didn’t feel right about leaving the Toronto Maple Leafs and joining another club as a rental player. Very noble of Sundin. Except that, in the end, Mats Sundin ended up leaving the Toronto Maple Leafs, only to join the Canucks as a rental player.
And the Leafs got nothing in return.
You know what: what ever is good for Mats Sundin, is good for Mats Sundin. He didn’t owe the Leafs anything, he didn’t owe the Canadiens anything, and he doesn’t owe the sport of Hockey anything. And Canadiens’ fans should have taken their cue from GM Bob Gainey when Gainey’s exclusive window of negotiating opportunity closed without success. Still, Habs’ fans kept their fingers crossed that Gainey might still be able to land the big Swede when he met with Sundin in Los Angeles several weeks ago.
Well, they can uncross their fingers.
As it turns out, Gainey’s aqusition of Robert Lang as Plan B has turned out to be an astute move. Last night, during Montreal’s convincing 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers at the Bell Centre, Lang picked up his 13th and 14 assists on the season, and now has 24 points, which ties him for the team lead with Alex Kovalev and Andrei Markov. His 10 goals is tops on a club that has struggled to put the puck in the net the entire season. Although Lang admits it’s gratifying to contribute offensively, at the tender age of 38, he’s not about to read anything into the fact that he’s leading the Canadiens in goal scoring.
Lang will feel a whole lot more like celebrating if the Habs can head into the holiday break with a double-header sweep of the Sabres and Hurricanes. Lang and his team mates hit the ice today at their practice facility in Brossard as they prepare for a weekend set at the Bell Centre: tomorrow night against Buffalo and Sunday night against Carolina.
Goaltender Carey Price was on the ice. The netminder is feeling “90 percent” after going down with a lower body injury and a case of the flue. Jaroslav Halak, who beat the Flyers last night, will get the call against the Sabres. Depending how Halak does against Buffalo, and depending on how Price feels tomorrow, it could be either Halak or Price Sunday against the Hurricanes. Then again, it could be Marc Denis against Carolina. Head coach Guy Carbonneau is clearly keeping his options open for Sunday’s game.
Ben Maxwell was also on the ice yesterday. The fact that he was on the ice with the Canadiens, and not as a member of the Hamilton Bulldogs, is good news for Maxwell, who was ticketed back to the American Hockey League when his roster spot dried up with the return of Mike Komisarek to the Montreal lineup last night. Maxwell’s status did an about turn when Andrei Kostitsyn went down after taking a knee-on-knee hit delivered by Scott Hartnell in last night’s game; leaving Kostitsyn on the sidelines today. The injury to Kostitstyn isn’t serious, and Andrei could be ready to return as early as Sunday. Even if Andrei is ready to go against Carolina, league rosters are effectively frozen until Dec. 27. Which means Maxwell isn’t going anywhere.