The Ghost Keeps His Counsel…..Fifteen days to the trade deadline and who knows what is in the back of Pierre Gauthier’s mind? He picked up the nickname “The Ghost” when he was in Ottawa. It was well earned. Few GM’s hold their cards closer to the vest than Gauthier. So, forget all of the stuff the rumour mills are grinding out. They know nothing. I’m not sure even Gauthier’s  closest advisors have a clue what he has up-his-sleeve. Will Gauthier be looking for some more help for the depleted defence? How about some up-front size? Chris Phillips from Ottawa? Eric Brewer from the Blues? Maybe big Dustin Penner from the Edmonton Oilers? None of the above? Odds are, it’s the latter. Additionally, I’m not so sure Gauthier is as uncomfortable as most others about the size of his forwards. My guess, if there is going to be any move, it will involve the defence. But a guess is just a guess. 

Changing Times – The Canadiens went into Boston Wednesday with dreams of catching the Bruins for first place in the Northeast division. The came out three fight filled hours later four points behind them. The next night they lost their third in a row to the Islanders in overtime. Still four points behind and now the Bruins had two games in hand.  First place?     Forget it.  A pipe dream.   Seventy two hours later and the Canadiens are back in the race thanks to the Saturday night win against Toronto and the Bruins back-to-back weekend losses to the Detroit Red Wings.   The Bruins still have a game in hand, but the Canadiens are yapping at their heels again, just one point back.  The Canadiens host Buffalo Tuesday before heading west for those three games, while the Bruins will host Toronto before playing the Islanders at Long Island. By the time the Bruins come to Montreal March 8th, the race could be red hot again.

The Injury Bug ……Injuries are part of hockey. The Canadiens have had their share. No team more than the Islanders, who came in to the Bell Centre and beat the Canadiens behind a fifth string goaltender and with ten members of their club on the injury list. Then they went in to Pittsburgh and scored nine goals on a Penguin team that is without Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin. I can understand that the Penguins offense would be hurt by their absence, but it doesn’t explain the collapse of their defense. The brawling may have had something to do with the Islander game, but Sunday the Rangers took them apart as well and the Penguins have dropped four of their last five games.

Weathering the Storm…..Speaking of dealing with adversity. The Canadiens have come through their injury storm with flying colours, thanks to the farm system depth. Since Josh Gorges was forced out of the lineup with his knee injury on Boxing day, the Canadiens are 9-6-4. Without both Gorges and Michael Cammalleri they’re 5-3-3. Through most of it, the Canadiens have been playing with four and the last two games five rookies. plus Max Pacioretty, who also started this season in Hamilton. 

Mario Speaks Out….   In a written statement, Mario Lemieux came down hard on the league for it’s handling of Friday night Pittsburgh/Islanders brawl in New York.  I thought the league’s response was surprisingly good, considering their historic record of wrist-slapping in these affairs. Lemieux called the game a “travesty” and “painful to watch”.and concluded with

“If the events relating to Friday night reflect the state of the league, I need to re-think whether I want to be part of it.”

Hypocrisy…….Lemieux’s statement and his concern for the state of the game would carry more water if it weren’t for the fact that one of his regular employees is Matt Cooke. It seems like the only ‘clean’ check Cooke has delivered in the last ten months is the one that wrecked Andrei Markov during last year’s conference semi-final. Fydor Tyutin of Columbus was blindsided on Tuesday for which Cooke got a four game suspension. The night before against Washington he tried to take out Alexander Ovechkin’s knee. In typical fashion, the NHL tried to blame the victim on that one.

Co-conspirators …….Now we’re beginning to find out the NHLPA is as much complicit as league ownership in the eye-winking that goes on when it comes to the dirtier players.  It’s being reported that the player’s association wants light suspension too, no matter how heinous the offense, something like a four game maximum.  I guess nine game suspension to Trevor Gillies of the Islanders can be considered a blip on the radar screen, not to be duplicated in the near future.

And this from Larry Brooks in the New York Post Friday…

“Up and down, left to right, front to back, there’s always a bad smell to endure. Donald Fehr, who, as head of the MLBA, worked hardest (and was paid so much) on behalf of all of the drug cheats, but to the disadvantage clean players, now runs the NHLPA.”

Analogy noted. Will Fehr defend the NHL’s goons to the detrement of the player’s union members who play the game within it’s rulebook as he did as head of the baseball player’s association.