So far this season, Canadiens forwards had been a fairly healthy bunch. No major damage beyond a two-game blip for Scott Gomez. Then Tuesday night hit.
First there was Michael Cammalleri followed by Max Pacioretty before the game was five minutes old. Then Jeff Halpern went down just past the midway mark of the opening period. The remaining players turned in a gutsy effort the rest of the way. It seemed pretty obvious, though, that the Canadiens were going to need at least one healthy body from Hamilton.
It comes with the recall of young Swedish centre Andreas Engqvist from the Bulldogs. The 23-year-old heads to Montreal with 14 points (six goals, eight assists) and a plus-5 rating in 38 games. That he got tabbed suggests Halpern won’t be ready before the weekend.
In his first season in North America, Engqvist appears to have adapted well to the smaller ice surface and the game on this side of the pond.
“He’s a big, strong, smart player who can be very effective at both ends and we like his progress so far,” Hamilton head coach Randy Cunneyworth told The Hamilton Spectator back in November.
As of Wednesday, he was the lone Montreal-bound Bulldog, and becomes the fourth to get called up this season.
While the Canadiens will be without Cammalleri and Pacioretty for as-of-yet undetermined periods, they do have a duo already on the roster capable of filling the top-six holes in Andrei Kostitsyn and Benoit Pouliot.
There’s little doubt on the talent of the former top-10 draftees. What Jacques Martin needs from both, however, is to display it on a consistent basis. Pouliot is expected to rejoin past linemates Gomez and Brian Gionta, with Kostitsyn slotting in alongside Tomas Plekanec and Lars Eller. The latter trio produced some quality chances late in Tuesday’s game; now it remains to be seen if they can keep it going.
General Manager Pierre Gauthier isn’t one to make rash decisions and that trend isn’t likely to change under the circumstances. On an already offensively-challenged team, Kostitsyn, Pouliot and Eller will be counted upon to raise their offensive games while building on a team net presence that has improved of late.
For now, all that’s known about the trio of injuries is that they are all designated as “upper body,” by Martin. Speculation is that it’s a separated shoulder for Cammalleri, who could be out at least four weeks according to RDS’ Renaud Lavoie, who covered the game. As for Pacioretty, it was initially believed to be fractured ribs but it seems the Canadiens may have dodged a bullet. Lavoie tweeted that the 22-year-old’s ribs are severely bruised, not broken. He is in a lot of pain but will apparently try and skate on Thursday.
Gauthier noted a few weeks ago that the Habs are “all in” in their commitment to the team’s success. They’ve counted on that bond to get them through adversity before and will need it to guide them again. And while Gauthier isn’t sending out an SOS to his 29 counterparts, there’s little doubt the astute GM is keeping a close eye on the sale racks.
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