By Michael Russo
Hello from the wonderful Bell Centre, which possesses one of the great atmospheres in pro sports.
It’s the 100th season of the Habs, and you can feel the optimism in the air. The Canadiens haven’t won a Cup since ’93, but the city’s expecting big things from this crew.
Fifty fans at least were waiting by the Canadiens’ parking garage just waiting for players to show up. You’ve got the All-Star Game here this season, the Draft. A new $7.8 million hi-def scoreboard ala Vancouver, Calgary, Chicago, etc.
I’m exhausted. I’m getting old. In my younger days, two regional jet flights would do nothing to me. Today, I’m in dire need of a nap.
Got to town at 2 p.m., got to the hotel at 3, got to spend some time with my father watching the Penguins-Senators, who lives down in Vermont, and now I’m here.
But I didn’t even get to go out of the hotel other than the walk to the arena. Talk about a wasted trip to one of the great cities on the continent.
Got into the building at 4:30, and Mikko Koivu and Saku Koivu were already chatting it up. Both teams are playing essentially their real lineups tonight.
Forgot to tell you, I ran into Scott Mellanby, the great former Panthers captain, and his wife, Sue, in the Minneapolis airport Thursday when I was heading to Columbus. He’s now working for the Vancouver Canucks.
I’m reminded of this because I once covered Mellanby crashing into the end boards here in Montreal at the end of a game as he tried to beat out an icing. Like Kurtis Foster, he was taken off on a stretcher. Frightening. Thank goodness, Mellanby wound up only with a concussion.
Funny story about that. After we filed our story, David J. Neal of the Miami Herald and I went to Montreal General Hospital to report on how Mellanby was doing.
We were in the emergency room, heard him talking and he gave us the thumbs up that he was OK. So I grabbed my cell to call the Sun-Sentinel and a nurse started screaming at me to get off the phone. She said in broken English, “Can’t you see the sign?”
I said, “I can’t read French.”
I then look at the sign and it’s a picture of a cell phone with a slash through it.
The next morning, Mellanby wound up flying commercial to Toronto to meet up with the Panthers, the same flight David J and I were on. As Mellanby was stowing his bag, he dropped the overhead bin and it slammed on his concussed melon.
It made for a good lead to my follow-up story that day, that’s for sure.
OK, be back soon.
Jacques Lemaire will play his regular lineup for the first time this camp in the team’s final exhibition game tonight (minus injured Marek Zidlicky).
The big news is Marc-Andre Bergeron will play tonight with two black eyes and a broken nose. Lemaire didn’t think he could last night.
The other notable thing? Boogaard is out for Gillies. Get used to this if the Wild is healthy, I believe.
Lineup: Brunette, Koivu, Gaborik, Nolan, Pouliot, Bouchard, Veilleux, Sheppard, Miettinen, Gillies, Belanger, Weller, Schultz, Burns, Johnsson, Skoula, Bergeron, Reitz, Backstrom, Brust.
Expect cuts tomorrow, by the way.
Koivu vs Koivu on the opening draw
Early look at Jacques’ thinking of power-play units
1-0 Wild. Ridiculous wrister by Gaborik 5:24 in. This after James Sheppard lugged the puck up ice with a man draped all over him. Sheppard dropped it to Veilleux, who gave it to Gaborik. Gaborik toe-dragged into the left circle and let her rip.
2-0 Wild 7:09 in. Again great play by Sheppard on the entry. Veilleux drives down the right wing and tried to center for Gaborik. The puck deflects off. Kovalev and in.
Veilleux’s fourth of the preseason…How about this line? Veilleux-Sheppard-Gaborik.
Wild could have a five-goal lead. Carey Price had robbed Brunette twice and Nolan once.
Sheppard’s just been outstanding tonight on both sides of the rink. He just set up Kim Johnsson. Price made a nice save, and then stopped Gaborik’s terrific chance on a rebound.
The Wild is skating tonight.
2-0 after 1. Montreal will have a 1:32 power play to open the second.
Gaborik denied on a shorthanded breakaway after nice play in neutral zone by Miettinen. Gaborik had to come in from the side and Price got his right pad on it.
Six minutes left, Johnsson off the post on a PP.
The crowd is giving BACKSTROM an ovation for an unbelievable glove save he made on Guillaume Latendresse.
Gaborik absolutely run by Steve Begin. Seconds after he gave up the puck, too. He didn’t see it coming. Gaborik looks dazed but fine. Sheppard went right at Begin, but it went nowhere. It was way too late, about the fourth hit the refs have let go when the player no longer had the puck.
End of 2, 2-0 Wild.
Gaborik’s out for the third. Man, hey got rocked though.
3-0 Miettinen, who’s had a great all-around game. He turned Dandenault inside-out, but it still was a weak goal by Price. 17:46 left.
Pouliot going off for tripping Saku Koivu. Mikko’s brother is red-hot angry at Pouliot, who stuck his leg out to upend Montreal’s captain.
Nolan might not have been on the ice during the Begin-on-Gaborik hit, but you know he took note. He just introduced himself to Begin, who vibrated after the hit.
3-0 final. Wild was as good as the score sounds.