Let's count the number of debilitating injuries the team has suffered since the beginning of last season, the Canadiens' 100th. There was Mike Komisarek's shoulder injury after being beat down by Milan Lucic in Boston, costing him 16 games and a chunk of his self-esteem. Then Carey Price got a groin injury that people began speculating was in fact a trip to re-hab (followed by his utter meltdown after the All-Star break).
After that, Chris Higgins was lost for 19 games, Saku Koivu for 17, Mathieu Dandenault for 24, Alex Tanguay for 28 and the playoffs, Guillaume Latendresse for 18, Robert Lang for the final 32 of the season and the playoffs, Francis Bouillon the final 22 and the playoffs, Andrei Markov the final four and the playoffs.
Jump ahead to this season, and we have Markov going down in Game 1 and ultimately missing 35, Ryan O'Byrne missing 19, Brian Gionta missing 21, Hal Gill out for 14 and various other minor ailments along the way to Scott Gomez, Glen Metropolit, Sergei Kostitsyn, Georges Laraque, Jaroslav Spacek and Paul Mara.
And now this.
The Olympic break should provide the elder Kostitsyn enough time to get back for the final stretch run, but the Habs will only have 19 games left on the schedule by that point. We all saw what it was like when the Canadiens had two dangerous scoring lines for other teams to contend with, but that glimpse was all too brief, and we may have to wait until March to see it again.
I feel it bears mentioning that the Habs have played all of two games, Dec. 30 and 31, with the lineup we expected to see in training camp. It's no coincidence the Habs won both those games, and they even won one where their goalie was not the team's best player.
So, who fills Kostitsyn's spot in his absence?
Jacques Martin can say all he wants about how Matt D'Agostini has the talent to fill in on the line with Tomas Plekanec and Mike Cammalleri, but I don't buy it. Other than his first 10 games with the team, D'Agostini hasn't shown a whole lot of that talent. And as far as hockey sense goes, I wouldn't call the guy a Rhodes Scholar.
I would give Sergei Kostitsyn a shot there for a few games, and not a few shifts, because I feel he does in fact have the talent to play there. It just remains to be seen if he has the work ethic, but I believe if you place him in prominent role on the team he'll respond to the challenge.
A suggestion I received via Twitter after Thursday's game and also mentioned by Marc-Antoine Godin in La Presse of using Marc-Andre Bergeron in that spot is intriguing, and definitely worth a shot. With Sergei due to miss at least the next couple of games, that's what I would try tonight against the Devils.
And if that doesn't work, I'd go with Travis Moen. He knows his role, his size would create space for his two smaller linemates, and he knows how to take up real estate in front of a net.
Finally, voting closes in thenhlarena.com Habs blog off final on Sunday. I'm sitting four votes behind Dennis Kane right now, so I could use a hand. Of course, losing this thing would not cause me to lose much sleep, but it would be fun to win. So, if you like, you can vote here.
I'm covering the game tonight for CP, so check back for an update, or you can follow my Twitter feed for in-game thoughts.