Tidbits For Montreal Game

Some loose ends worth considering for tonight's game:

• The Gazette in Montreal says Andrei Kostitsyn — who, like Brandon Sutter, was concussed on a big hit from Kurt Sauer Oct. 18 — is supposed to play. He'll be back on the top line with Tomas Plekanec and Alexei Kovalev after missing just two games. Left winger Christopher Higgins will also return, having missed the past six games with a groin injury. He'll be on the third line with Robert Lang and Sergei Kostitsyn. The return of the elder Kostitsyn and Higgins will give coach Guy Carbonneau a healthy roster for the first time this season.

• The Habs' second line has been the team's best through seven games. Saku Koivu (4-6-10, plus-9), Alex Tanguay (5-3-8, plus-5) and Guillaume Latendresse (1-5-6, plus-6) have everything you look for in a line: skill, power, grit and determination.

Andrei Markov is probably the league's most underrated blueliner, which seems unthinkable given he plays for the Canadiens. Markov already has 10 assists this season, putting him well on his way to top the 58 points he registered last year. His poise in the defensive end and puck-moving ability — especially on the point of the power play — is a joy to watch.

• Speaking of d-men, Mike Komisarek has become one of the league's top shutdown defenders. He combines size, strength and the willingness to do anything in a package that would make any general manager drool. He's currently fourth in the league in hits and first in blocked shots. Let's hope he doesn't give his former Michigan teammate Dwight Helminen a "welcome to the NHL" to remember.

• In his only career game vs. the Canes, goalie Carey Price gave up four goals in 40 minutes and was chased in a 5-1 Carolina win Dec. 8, 2007. Jaroslav Halak, Montreal's No. 2, has only faced Carolina just once as well — in relief of Price in that same game. He gave up one goal on six shots.

• There was no love lost last Valentine's Day when Georges Laraque — then of the Penguins and considered the league's top fighter — faced off with Canes enforcer Wade Brookbank. It wasn't much of a brawl, but a rematch is possible tonight.

• The Habs are currently No. 1 in goals per game (3.71), while Carolina is 10th (3.14). The difference, however, is in goals against. Montreal is allowing just 2.29 goals per game (good for sixth in the league) while Carolina ranks 22nd, matching the 3.14 per game they score.

• Carolina and Montreal are among the league's highest-scoring five-on-five teams early in the season. The Canadiens are second in the league with 1.56 per game, while the Canes are sixth at 1.30 a game. At the same time, both teams power plays have performed below expectations (Montreal 14th at 17.6 percent, Carolina 27th at 13.3).

• Montreal is third in the league (54.3) in faceoff percentage, while Carolina has struggled mightily at 47.6 (26th). Expect Carolina's faceoff numbers to improve — Rod Brind'Amour (58.9 on 146 faceoffs) will see more draws with Brandon Sutter (36.0 on 86 draws —more than a fifth of the team's faceoffs) out of the lineup, specifically on the penalty kill. Matt Cullen, who is supposed to move back to center tonight, is only 38.1 percent on the season, but historically has been serviceable. He was at 56.1 percent last year and 54.6 percent with the Rangers in 2006-07.

• Finally, The Gazette has a nice article on Michael Leighton, who used to play for the Habs and was acquired by Carolina from Montreal at the 2007 Draft for a seventh-round pick. The article touches on his 98-save performance in Albany last season, the mysticism of playing in Montreal, and his AHL brawl with his now-creasemate Cam Ward. Oh, and apparently he enjoys chocolate chip muffins and, to go, a Boston cream doughnut at Tim Horton's.

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