Canadiens prospects are well-traveled in 2005-06

By Jason Menard

As the parent club struggles through an injury-decimated season that has seen a shotgun start fizzle into a pop-gun performance, Canadiens prospects have been wearing out a path traveling back and forth between Hamilton and Montreal.

Defenseman Jean-Phillipe Côté is just the latest to do the ol’ Highway 401 shuffle after being recently reassigned to the AHL farm club after a cup of coffee with the parent club. Injuries to regulars like Saku Koivu, Richard Zednik, Alex Kovalev, Cristobal Huet, and Sheldon Souray opened the door for the Habs’ prospects to get a taste of life at the top of the food chain.

Goaltender Yann Danis, forward Andrei Kostitsyn, and Côté have racked up the most frequent flyer miles, bouncing back and forth between the parent and farm club on a couple of occasions as injury fill-ins. And their experiences have bounced around in conjunction with the Canadiens’ team fortunes.

After starting the season with the parent club, Danis now finds himself plying his trade back in the AHL. After coming out blazing hot out of the gate, Danis’ fortunes have cooled in proportion with that of the team. The 24-year-old started his NHL career with a shutout and continued to stonewall the opposition en route to a 3-1 record with a 2.61 GAA in the new, offensively-minded NHL. Upon his return to Hamilton when Huet returned from injury, Danis rattled off three straight wins to lead the Bulldogs to a brief resurgence. However, as the club’s fortunes cooled, so too has Danis’ torrid pace. He added another loss at the NHL level to his record, but has backstopped his way to a respectable 8-7-0-1 record despite playing for the division-trailing Bulldogs (14-23-0-2).

In seven games with the Canadiens, Kostitsyn has recorded two goals and one assist in just under six minutes a game of ice time. His second tour of duty with the Habs has been more promising with him earning two points in two games since his recall from Hamilton. After scoring his first NHL goal on his first NHL shot, the soon to be 21-year-old went pointless in his subsequent four games and found himself on a bus back to Hamilton. In 34 games with the Bulldogs, he’s shrugged off his early-season scoring woes and started to be more productive with 21 points and seven goals.

A number of other Bulldogs have found their way down the 401 to Montreal, including new acquisitions Garth Murray and the aforementioned Côté, both 23. Murray, acquired from the New York Rangers in the deal that saw the loss of Marcel Hossa, has appeared in 13 games picking up a goal and an assist in limited ice time. Côté was recently sent down after a respectable three-game stint that saw him held off the score sheet, but displayed his responsibility in his own end. Côté adjusted well to the rigors of the NHL, posting a +1 plus/minus rating in his abbreviated stint.

Other call-ups have included forward Jonathan Ferland, who is still with the Habs – along with Kostitsyn, left wing Raitis Ivanans, and center Maxim Lapierre. Only Ferland has bulged the twine, but the opportunities have been few and far between with the three players sharing only five games of NHL experience.

In a bit of a surprise, right wing Alexander Perezhogin has found his way back down to the AHL for the first time since the notorious stick-swinging incident. After a red-hot debut to the season that saw him riding shotgun with Koivu and Kovalev, and had some pundits whispering the word Calder, the slick Russian has cooled off. However, the 22-year-old showed flashes of the promise that continue to make him a top prospect earning 12 points in 36 NHL games on six goals and six assists.

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