Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cause for concern?

So it appears Christopher Higgins, Francis Bouillon and Georges Laraque won't be ready for Wednesday night's home opener after all. When the Canadiens left on their season-opening road trip, Guy Carbonneau appeared pretty confident the trio would be waiting and ready to take the ice upon the team's return. Though all three of them skated Tuesday, they did so alone as their road-weary teammates got a well deserved day off after three games in four nights.

Bouillon's delay was perhaps a bit foreseeable seeing as he's not nursing a simple groin pull, but a leg (knee?) problem of some sort. However, I would have thought that both Higgins and Laraque would be in uniform - or at least available - for the home opener, especially with it being the first home game of the centennial and the ceremony should have some extra mustard on it with the unveiling of the "Ring of Honour" in the presence of Elmer Lach and Émile "Butch" Bouchard.

Though Laraque's presence would be nice against a team that may turn to a bit of thuggery should things not go the Bruins' way early Wednesday night, it is Higgins' continued absence that makes me wonder if he's being forthright about the status of his injury. Higgins says he feels fine, but needs the OK of the medical staff before taking to the ice. The longer his situation drags out, however, the more it will hurt his chances for success in what is a very important season as he's playing for a big money contract next season.

Higgins may already have seen his spot alongside Saku Koivu and Alex Tanguay vanish because of the injury and the sometimes solid play of Guillaume Latendresse in his absence. Playing with Robert Lang and Sergei Kostitsyn is not a bad assignment, but Higgins already has chemistry with Koivu after spending the better part of the last three years on his wing, and his best chance for a big year is likely by the captain's side. Now, Carbonneau could very well put Higgins back on Koivu's line upon his return, but I don't really see why he would after watching how well Latendresse complements Koivu and Tanguay with his size. In any case, I still think the team is better with Higgins on Lang's line, but the point I'm trying to make is that he had a spot alongside Koivu which is now in question.

This must be one of those cases of internal competition Bob Gainey and Carbonneau love talking about, but if Higgins is unable to go Saturday as well, then this officially becomes a more serious injury than everyone is letting on. That would be a major chip for Carbonneau to lose in his plan to roll three scoring lines this season, because even if Sergei and Lang are putting points on the board playing with Tom Kostopoulos, there's no question having a guy like Higgins or even Latendresse would make that line that much more potent.

We should know if the Higgins situation is more of an injury problem or a preventive measure by Friday morning.

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