The Canadiens handed out a couple of boxing day gifts Friday by calling up Max Pacioretty and Kyle Chipchura from Hamilton as reinforcements for Saturday night's tilt against the struggling Penguins.
Chipchura is no surprise because he's the one who should have been called up instead of Ben Maxwell when Saku Koivu went down with his foot/ankle/leg injury, except he too was injured at the time. But I was pretty stunned to hear about Pacioretty.
It would appear at the outset that Pacioretty is merely an insurance policy in case Andrei Kostitsyn can't go Saturday, even though he practiced Friday with Tomas Plekanec and Alex Kovalev.
But it's a pretty big vote of confidence for the young kid who only has three goals in 26 AHL games (though he does have 17 assists).
As for Chipchura, he's a far better fit as a fourth line centre than Maxwell and is obviously way more NHL ready, both mentally and physically. He's been playing very well in Hamilton as the Bulldogs captain, putting up solid numbers with nine goals and 11 assists in 23 games while displaying the same responsible defensive game that will eventually be his calling card in the big league.
It's funny to think back to training camp and how Guy Carbonneau made it clear that none of the rookies, and even Chipchura, had little chance of making the club because all his forward slots were filled. Now, on the active roster, there's Matt D'Agostini, Maxwell, Pacioretty and Chipchura. Things are obviously not going as planned when it comes to injuries, but this is what it means to have organizational depth.
So, let's assume Andrei Kostitsyn will be ready to go Saturday, then the lines based on what they were at practice Friday will look like this:
A. Kostitsyn - Plekanec - Kovalev
D'Agostini - Lang - Tanguay
Latendresse - Lapierre - Kostopoulos
Begin - Chipchura - S. Kostitsyn
Replacing Maxwell with Chipchura should make that fourth line a whole lot better, but I'm wondering what will happen when Koivu is ready to play, perhaps down in Florida?
I would love to see Carbonneau give the Plekanec line at least five games together without interruption. If they stink, then let them stink for a little while to see if they can play themselves out of it. If after five games they can't figure it out, then just drop the line altogether for the rest of the season.
I realize Carbonneau is not a poster child for patience, but with what these three accomplished together last season, I feel they deserve a prolonged shot at finding that chemistry again. Andrei Kostitsyn rarely says much of anything to reporters, but I found it very telling when he said after his three-point game against the Thrashers at the beginning of this month that nobody knows who anyone will be playing with on any given day.
That kind of uncertainty might be effective sometimes, but I don't think it's working with these three guys. Maybe if Carbonneau went to them and said that they have five games, starting in Pittsburgh, to find some offence, then they wouldn't feel as though they have to score six goals every shift just to make sure the line stayed together.
The Canadiens are likely to go as far as this line takes them, so why not give them an honest chance to produce like everyone knows they can?