The Canadiens bring their media circus into the Mellon Arena tonight to face off with the Penguins in the last game of what has already been a memorable road trip (for all of the wrong reasons).
Alex Kovalev remains at home, and questions continue to surround his future with the team. While some believe that he's on his way out and would command a reasonable return on the open market, I'm inclined to believe that he'll be staying put in Montreal. As a UFA he'd only be desirable to a contender, but his numbers (and some would say attitude) so far this season haven't been good enough to warrant a reasonable return. While it's possible that his expiring contract would be enough for somebody in the rebuilding phase to pick him up in an attempt to clear some money off of the books, I think that Montreal would be better served with him in the lineup. It's not that long ago that he was an integral contributor in a team that was expected to challenge for a Conference title, and I think it's too early to write that off. The Habs are clearly more of a contender with him around than with just about anything he could be dealt for, so keeping him just feels like the best option.
The general unrest of players like Steve Begin and the recently demoted Sergei Kostitsyn is troubling, as team chemistry seems to be wearing ever thinner by the day. How much of this is related to the recent losing streak is hard to say, but I'm of the opinion that a few wins would go a long way to quieting some of these rumblings. Granted, everybody wants their playing time (and will advocate for it accordingly), but it's a lot easier for people in the media to run with these types of complaints when the team is losing and changes seem desirable.
As for the game tonight, going with the same lineup that played so well in Washington last night seems prudent. Perhaps removing the underachieving George Laraques in favour of somebody capable of contributing in a positive manner for the team might have been an option, but other than that I've got no complaints.
With the bottom of the standings in the East quickly becoming a quagmire, the Canadiens need to pull things together or they'll quickly be on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. The Penguins have also been struggling of late (and find themselves in a similar playoff quandary), so I expect this to be a hotly contested affair. Crosby usually always brings his best when he plays against Montreal, so hopefully the Habs can weather the storm.