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By Matt Canamucio, NHL Editor

(Sports Network) - The 2005-06 Montreal Canadiens will likely be remembered as the team that blew a 2-0 series lead to the eventual-champion Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the playoffs.

That is now history, and the changes in Montreal began from the outset. Guy Carbonneau officially took over behind the bench for GM/interim coach Bob Gainey after the playoffs. Carbonneau was brought in as an associate coach when Gainey fired Claude Julien, and was immediately named as Gainey's eventual successor.

However, Carbonneau took over the gig without previous head coaching experience on any level.

In terms of player movement this summer, Gainey's biggest splash was the signing of left wing Sergei Samsonov. In addition the club inked right wing Mike Johnson, who can be a 20+ goal scorer if healthy.

In addition the club re-signed several key pieces, including goaltender Cristobal Huet. Huet officially became the starter when Jose Theodore was traded last March, and performed admirably both before and after that point.

FORWARDS - This club has a decent amount of firepower at the top of its forward corps, but lacks a true sniper and depth. Alexei Kovalev and Saku Koivu were the club's lone 60-point producers, but the addition of Samsonov gives a new dynamic to the group. Samsonov, who hasn't logged a completely healthy season in years, is a guy who can give you 15-25 goals, but he surprisingly has never reached the 30 mark.

A key to this whole thing will likely be right wing Michael Ryder, who might have the most pure goal-scoring talent on the roster. He notched 30 goals as a sophomore a season ago, and he has 40-goal potential.

Mike Ribeiro, meanwhile, will be counted on to be the second-line center, but he took a step back after breaking out in 2003-04. Johnson is a solid two-way guy who has been a 20+ goal guy in the past.

Others like Tomas Plekanec, Alexander Perezhogin and the enigmatic Radek Bonk will be counted on for lower line production.

Overall, this group of forwards is among the fastest in the NHL, but there is something missing and it's a physical presence.

DEFENSE - The Habs' blueline corps lacks a true anchor, but has a solid trio leading the way in Andrei Markov, Craig Rivet and Sheldon Souray. Markov might be the best all-around guy, as he topped Montreal blueliners with 36 assists and 46 points and was a team-high plus-13.

Francois Bouillon and Mathieu Dandenault are a pair of capable veterans, although Bouillon is sidelined for the start of the season with a knee injury. Mike Komisarek, meanwhile, is now 24-years-old and could be a guy to keep an eye on. He has tremendous size at 6-4, 237 pounds and knows how to use it.

GOALTENDING - Huet finished last season 18-11-4 with a 2.20 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in 36 appearances. He stepped in while Theodore struggled and was injured, and his play carried the Canadiens to the seventh seed and a playoff berth.

Huet could be pushed if he struggles, as David Aebischer remains in the fold. Aebischer was obtained from Colorado in the Theodore deal, and is back on a one-year contract. While last year was a down season for him, his previous efforts with the Avalanche were very solid. So don't overlook him, especially if Huet hits some bumps in the road.

http://146.145.120.3/default.asp?c=hockeynews&page=nhl/news/adn4042367.htm
 
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