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Virus-ravaged Habs chuck up another loss as weary players fail to generate offence
PAT HICKEY, The Gazette
Published: Monday, January 08, 2007

Desperate times call for desperate measures, but Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau said he had no choice but to turn yesterday's 3-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils into a 60-minute chemistry experiment.

Carbonneau was forced to make some pregame roster changes because the Canadiens were missing veteran centre Radek Bonk (facial injury) and Tomas Plekanec (gastro-intestinal virus).

But the juggling continued throughout the game with the Canadiens using at least 19 forward line combinations.

"We didn't really have a choice," Carbonneau said. "We were missing two centres, we dressed eight defencemen and we had guys who were still suffering from the flu. We wanted to try to find combinations that would work, but we also wanted to save some guys who were still suffering."

Carbonneau said the virus that ran through the team since it first surfaced Thursday night in Washington was "the worst I've ever seen. When you factor in the the three games in four days, it was a real problem."

The Canadiens lost all three of those games and Carbonneau is hoping that a day of rest will be beneficial before the Canadiens entertain the Southeast Division-leading Atlanta Thrashers tomorrow night (7:30 p.m., RDS, CJAD Radio-800).

"We've told everyone to stay away from the rink (today) and when they report back (tomorrow) morning, we'll see who's healthy," Carbonneau said. "(Athletic therapist Graham Rynbend) will keep close tabs on everyone and I'll be very happy if I don't get an email from him tomorrow."

Captain Saku Koivu, who missed Saturday's 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers, said he still wasn't 100 per cent, but refused to blame the illness for the Canadiens' loss yesterday.

"This game went pretty much the same way as the other games we played against them this season," Koivu said.

That meant a tight-checking game that was effectively over when the Devils took a 2-0 lead in the first period.

"I thought we did some good things," Koivu said. "We killed off a couple of 5-on-3 power plays and we had some scoring chances."

The Canadiens went into the game with arguably the best special teams in the NHL, but they weren't a major factor against a disciplined Devils squad.

The Canadiens successfully killed off two 5-on-3 Jersey power plays, which lasted 1:25 and 1:55, respectively. Brian Gionta scored an insurance goal on a third-period power play, giving the Devils one goal on six opportunities.

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