Maybe Jacques Martin noticed what a lot of observers did during Maxim Lapierre's four-game suspension: namely, that Lapierre's absence wasn't all that noticeable.
In past years, losing Lapierre for a given period of time would definitely have changed the complexion of a game. Gone would be the guy who leaps over the boards and starts charging his way all over the ice looking for someone - anyone - in an opposing jersey to hit. His shifts appeared to give the entire team a lift, either by blocking a shot, having a sustained forecheck, or even laying a cheap shot behind the play.
But that player has been gone all season, replaced by someone far more passive and far less hungry, someone who may have felt he'd earned the right to stop working quite as hard on the ice.
Well, now he's earned a seat in the press box for tonight's big game in Buffalo, despite the fact Travis Moen is out with a torn face. Both Mathieu Darche and Tom Pyatt survived the return of Mike Cammalleri and Marc-Andre Bergeron, and it's because they know the No. 1 reason they are earning an NHL paycheque is because they work hard. Lapierre forgot that somewhere along the way.
Tonight will also mark the return of Carey Price in the Canadiens net. Personally, I thought the time to bring Price back would be tomorrow night against the Florida Panthers, but after giving it some thought I think I agree with the decision. First of all Florida is closer in the standings (eight points back) to Montreal than Buffalo (nine points up), thereby making the home half of the back-to-back slightly more important.
Price has played well against the Sabres this year, and bringing him back in an environment where he won't necessarily be booed if he allows a bad goal might not be a bad idea.
But the main reason I like the decision is this: Price deserves one more shot to prove he can play. And it's better to find out now whether or not he can.