Penguins Notebook: Laraque ready, may still sit
Friday, March 16, 2007
By Dave Molinari, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Right winger Georges Laraque
, bothered by back spasms for most of this week, said he is fully recovered and ready to return to the lineup.
Whether there will be a place for him there when the Penguins face Montreal at 7:38 p.m. today at Mellon Arena isn't clear, however.
Coach Michel Therrien
was noncommittal yesterday about dressing Laraque against the Canadiens, and it's likely that Laraque's medical status won't be the only factor considered before a decision is rendered.
Therrien might be reluctant to alter the lineup -- which had Ronald Petrovicky
filling in for Laraque -- that produced victories against Buffalo and New Jersey, the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Laraque wants to play, regardless of the circumstances, and said having tonight's game be against his hometown team isn't really an issue for him.
"Obviously, it's always special, but not as much as it was the first time," he said. "Or if it was in Montreal."
With the Penguins in the midst of a stretch of five games in seven days, Therrien gave most of his players yesterday off.
The only ones who joined Laraque and Petrovicky on the ice at Mellon Arena were forwards Chris Thorburn
and Nils Ekman
, defensemen Mark Eaton
and Joel Kwiatkowski
and goalies Marc-Andre Fleury
and Jocelyn Thibault
Vertigo sidelines Kovalev
Montreal right winger Alex Kovalev
will miss tonight's game because of vertigo, a condition that affects a person's sense of balance.
He first noticed a problem early Monday morning, and it was severe enough to force him to sit out Montreal's 5-3 victory against the New York Islanders the next night.
Although Kovalev returned for an optional workout Wednesday, he said he still was feeling some effects of the condition and was candid when speaking with Montreal reporters about his health concerns.
"First, I thought something was going on with my brain," he said. "Definitely, when you don't know what it is, it makes you scared."
Kovalev, who did not accompany his teammates, is the Canadiens' No. 4 scorer, with 14 goals and 28 assists in 63 games.
It's no secret that the Penguins and Canadiens have much in common -- both teams are fighting for an Eastern Conference playoff spot, and Therrien used to coach in Montreal -- but they share at least one distinction few realize. And of which neither side likely is very proud.
Going into last night's games, they were the only teams in the NHL with two players who have received more than one diving minor this season.
and Colby Armstrong
of the Penguins have been assessed two, as have Canadiens forwards Michael Ryder
and Tomas Plekanec
New York Rangers center Sean Avery
has a league-high four diving minors.
Montreal's power play is among the most dangerous in the NHL -- the Canadiens have scored on 22.2 percent of their chances with the extra man, tying San Jose for first place in the efficiency ratings before last night's games -- and defenseman Sheldon Souray
has been particularly productive during man-advantages.
Of his 57 points, 41 have come during power plays. Sixteen of those have been goals, leaving Souray two shy of the league record shared by Denis Potvin
(1974-75) and Adrian Aucoin
Souray's total of 23 goals is the most by an NHL defenseman since Sergei Gonchar
of the Penguins had 26 in 2001-02, when he played for Washington. Conversely, Souray's plus-minus rating of minus-20 is the worst among the league's 20 highest-scoring defensemen, while Gonchar's minus-7 is third worst.