If indeed it's true that having someone like Georges Laraque in the lineup - even is he's sitting on the bench - scares the opposition straight, then I see no problem having him skate on the fourth line in Game 1 of the Habs first round playoff series against the Boston Bruins.
But otherwise, why would he play? Everyone knows that fighting is not a major part of playoff hockey, even though the odd skirmish does break out every now and then. And if Laraque can't fight, then is he still a useful player?
I guess drawing two penalties and using his strength on the cycle against the Penguins the other night won Laraque this spot in the lineup, if indeed he's still skating on the fourth line by Thursday. But if he's dressed, I'd be willing to bet that most of his shifts will be grabbed by someone else.
Why? Because the Glen Metropolit-Christopher Higgins tandem has been identified as a shutdown line, one that uses speed to throw a blanket over the opposition's top skaters. I thought they and Mathieu Dandenault were doing a good job of that until the latter was called back to the blueline for emergency duty.
But there's no way Laraque can actually be expected to play against top-flight forwards, and he'd have trouble keeping up with his linemates. Trouble is, I'm not sure who would take Laraque's place on that line when the game gets important.
You don't want to bog down either Alex Tanguay or Alex Kovalev with extra defensive responsibilities when they will be expected to produce most of your offence. Neither of the wingers on Tomas Plekanec's line really have a clue defensively (or, for that matter, offensively of late) while Guillaume Latendresse and Tom Kostopoulos already fill a checking role on Maxim Lapiere's line.
So would that fourth line simply get nailed to the bench, with Metropolit and Higgins heading out for penalty killing duties? I find that hard to believe, especially since Claude Julien can very comfortably roll four lines on the other side.
Maybe Laraque skated on the fourth line to put some doubt in the Bruins' minds and he actually won't play Thursday. Or maybe Bob Gainey actually plans to use him in a shutdown role. Either way, I find his tentative inclusion in the lineup at practice Monday curious, to say the least. The time to dress Laraque was that big regular season showdown in Boston last week, but I have trouble seeing how effective he would be in the playoffs.