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Montreal Canadiens

Canadiens Looking Ahead

As the Montreal Canadiens look ahead to the 2008/2009 season, they have high aspirations. This is the Habs 100th year in the league. They have many big events planned for this upcoming year. But what would make things so much sweeter for the faithful Habs fans is a Stanley Cup. Every year, fans in Montreal expect their team to be a cup contender. Bob Gainey, General Manager of the Canadiens has brought a few new faces into the Canadiens locker room and a few have left. Speedy winger, Alex Tanguay, was acquired from the Calgary Flames in June in exchange for the Habs first round pick in 2009. Last season, there was lots of talk about Tanguay coming to Montreal around the trade deadline. But the GM’s on both teams could not come to a consensus trade at the time. But this summer, the Habs finally got their man.

Montreal also brought in enforcer Georges Laraque. The Habs were in need of some grit and toughness after Philadelphia pushed them around last year in the second round of playoffs. Last year, Larauque was Sidney Crosby’s “bodyguard” on the ice. If anyone messed with Sid, big Georges would be seen coming off the bench for the next shift. This season, the Habs will have more toughness. This is not putting down Hab winger Tom Kostopolous though. Last season, Tom did not back down from anyone. He was always getting under Boston Bruins 6’9″ defenseman Zdeno Chara without even thinking twice. Kostopolous is one tough character. Steve Begin, who was used as the 4th line centre for most of the season, also is one of the Habs tougher guys up front.

The Habs also got goaltender Marc Denis to give starter Carey Price some veteran leadership behind him.

The off-season also seen Michael Ryder head to Boston, utility man Mark Streit go to the New York Islanders and Mikael Grabovski go to Toronto.

Gainey has also been trying to land the much sought after free-agent Mats Sundin. The talks are still in progress and many teams are very interested, including Vancouver who offered Sundin a 10-million-dollar a year deal. Sundin has still not made a decision whether or not he wants to play next year, let alone with which team.

These acquisitions make the Habs a stronger team on paper. Tanguay will likely be playing beside Saku Koivu. The spectacular trio in 2007/08 of Alex Kovalev, Andrei Kostitsyn and Tomas Plekanec will likely remain as the Canadiens’ main scoring line. Either Sergei Kostitsyn or Chris Higgins will likely be put with the Koivu-Tanguay duo as the team’s second scoring line, which could be just as dangerous as the first. The third line will most likely consist of Guillaume Latendresse, Maxim Lapierre and either Higgins or Sergei Kostitsyn. The checking line will include Laraque, Begin, Kostopolous, and second year Kyle Chipchura all vying for spots.

The defence remains strong with seven capable starters for six spots. Offensive specialist Andrei Markov will likely be paired with hard-hitting Mike Komisarek once again. Francis Bouillion and Roman Hamrlik will likely be starters, and Josh Gorges, Ryan O’Byrne and Mathieu Dandenault will fill have to work hard for a spot on the blue-line.

In goal, Carey Price is the number one man for the Habs. The goaltending sensation is entering his second year and the Canadiens’ are expecting big things from him. Newly-acquired Marc Denis will likely be battling for a position as Price’s back-up with Jaroslav Halak, who is also a capable NHL starter.

Guy Carbonneau is back behind the bench once again for the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge. The whole Canadiens’ coaching staff is also expecting big things, like repeating as the top power play team last season and more importantly another first place finish in the East.

The `Habs Nation’ will be watching closely as training camp nears and they will also be expecting big things from their team. And, once again, what better way to celebrate 100 years than a Stanley Cup

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