The Canadiens announced this afternoon that Kyle Chipchura and Gregory Stewart have been sent back down to the Hamilton Bulldogs, and unless this was a cap-related move it means we can expect to see Christopher Higgins in uniform when the Habs come back from the All-Star break.
That brings the Canadiens roster down to 21, or two below the limit, meaning that even when (or is it if?) Georges Laraque comes back there will still be some breathing room as far as roster room goes. However, once Laraque returns it will mean two healthy bodies in the stands every night.
From the looks of it right now, it would appear that both Max Pacioretty and Matt D'Agostini should be safe. Guy Carbonneau showed in last night 5-2 loss in New Jersey what he thinks of Pacioretty when he got him away from two coasting veterans and played him with Saku Koivu and D'Agostini.
To me, that appears to be a line that might work, with Pacioretty filling the role Higgins used to as Koivu's grinder and puck retriever, while Matt D'Agostini can play the role once filled by Michael Ryder as the right-handed trigger man. Koivu, Higgins and Ryder had some good stretches together, so it might be worth a shot to see if this younger version could work as well.
That would leave Higgins to play alongside Tomas Plekanec and Alex Kovalev, and he might add something valuable to those two, both of whom I expect to leave this week's lethargy behind and put together a solid second half.
The odd man out in this scenario is unfortunately Steve Bégin, who doesn't really deserve it but, as Carbonneau said himself, life isn't always fair. The only way I can see him getting in the lineup would be on the Maxim Lapierre line, which is slowly becoming Carbonneau's go-to unit. Whenever the team needs a jolt of energy, or needs to change the momentum of the game, Carbonneau taps Lapierre on the shoulder. So how or why would Carbonneau break up this group to make room for Bégin?
Things will start to get tricky when Alex Tanguay gets back from injury, but that's not for a little while yet. Logic would dictate that one of Pacioretty or D'Agostini would get bumped at that point, but a lot of things can happen between now and Tanguay's return.
Until then, it will be a heavy dose of internal competition.