PAT HICKEY, The Gazette
Thursday, December 07, 2006
There are a number of pressing questions as the Canadiens prepare to meet the New York Islanders:
Will Rick DiPietro be in goal tonight for the Islanders?
Will defenceman Andrei Markov be sufficiently recovered to anchor the Habs' blue line?
And will there be more than 9,000 fans at the Nassau Coliseum?
DiPietro, who signed a 15-year contract in the offseason, wasn't dressed for the Isles' 4-2 loss to Ottawa Tuesday. Depending on who you talked to, DiPietro has one of those mysterious lower-body injuries, or he was resting up for tonight's game (7:30, RDS, CJAD Radio-800).
It will be a game-day decision for Markov, who missed last night's game because of the flu. The good news for the Canadiens is that Janne Niinimaa, who was a healthy scratch in eight of the Canadiens' previous nine games, played well as Mike Komisarek's defence partner.
As for the crowd, the NHL insists attendance across the league is only down by one per cent, but the bleeding has been heavy on Long Island, where only 8,741 fans showed up Tuesday. Mike Komisarek's family and friends will account for some tickets - the defenceman said he needed 160 for one game last season - but fellow Long Islander Chris Higgins is back in Montreal undergoing treatment for his sprained ankle.
Matvichuk's return creates headache: Richard Matvichuk's recovery from back surgery is one of those good-news, bad- news situations for the New Jersey Devils.
The team is looking forward to having the veteran defenceman back in the lineup, but it's going to mean more salary-cap sleight of hand from GM Lou Lamoriello. The Devils are right up against the cap and must figure out how to handle Matvichuk's $1.368-million salary.
Fischer snubbed: The U.S. national junior hockey team includes five players from the University of Minnesota and seven first-round NHL draft choices. But David Fischer, who falls into both categories, was not among the players selected this week.
Fischer, who was the Canadiens' first-round choice in June, was hurt by the fact he played high-school hockey and has no history with the U.S. National Team Development program. The 6-foot-2, 192-pound defenceman has played in 15 of 17 games for the Golden Gophers and has three assists.