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Alain Vigneault


C - Saku Koivu, Vincent Damphousse, Scott Thornton, Matt Higgins, Trent McLeary, Sergei Zholtok. LW - Shayne Corson, Martin Rucinsky, Benoit Brunet, Terry Ryan, Brian Savage, Andrei Bashkirov, Dave Morissette, Patrick Poulin. RW - Mark Recchi, Turner Stevenson, Jonas Hoglund, Jason Dawe. D - Vladimir Malakhov, Stephane Quintal, Patrice Brisebois, Brett Clark, Miloslav Guren, Stephane Robidas, Craig Rivet, Igor Ulanov, Eric Weinrich, Alain Nasreddine. G Jose Theodore, Jeff Hackett.


Vladimir Malakhov, d (back spasms, day-to-day); Mark Recchi, rw (pneumonia, day-to-day); Brian Savage, rw (strained groin, day-to-day); Scott Thornton, c (torn abdominal wall muscle, approximately 2-3 weeks).


12/15 - acquired right winger Jason Dawe from the New York Islanders. 12/19 - Theodore was assigned to the Baby Habs for the day, along with Matt Higgins, Sergei Zholtok and Alain Nasreddine.


12/09 at Phoenix  L 4-2
12/11 at Dallas   L 3-2
12/12 Nashville   T 2-2 
12/14 Phoenix     T 2-2  
12/18 at Buffalo  L 4-2
12/19 New Jersey  T 1-1 
12/21 Dallas      T 2-2 


Northeast Division  GP   W   L   T   PTS   GF   GA   
  Toronto           32  19  11   2    40  105   90  
  Buffalo           28  17   6   5    39   83   51   
  Boston            30  15   9   6    36   82   61 
  Ottawa            29  14  12   3    31   86   73   
  Montreal          32   8  17   7    23   70   92


by Jacques Robert, Montreal Correspondent

"Believe in Victory"

"Be brave, you'll win." Those words were on a sign held by a 10- year-old boy at the game in Montreal against New Jersey. That child's analysis might just be right: the Habs haven't won in so long that they don't know what victory feels like. And perhaps, they had to face the devil's eye to start believing in themselves and to know what they're really made of, and guess what? They're not that bad!

They might not have defeated the Devils on December 19, but they could have broken a curse: for once they scored in the third to tie the game 1-1 in the 14th minute when Stevenson lifted a short shot beyond Martin Brodeur. Although very encouraging, this one-point game left the right-winger skeptical about the future, "It's like kissing your sister. Those games are not sufficient to catch up, we need to win."

Winless since Nov. 30, the Habs have made a habit of giving up goals in the last minutes of a game. On Dec. 9 against Dallas, they had managed to come back from a two-goal deficit to tie the game in the second period. But, with 2:49 minutes remaining in the third, Jamie Langenbrunner scored against Theodore, who has not posted a win since Nov. 9. The Habs blew another lead against Phoenix when Teppo Numminen scored with 1:53 in the third as Montreal was leading 2-1. And let's not forget Buffalo's Vaclav Varada's fluke goal late in the second period that threw off the Habs for the remainder of the game which they lost 4-2.

It seems that the high the team (and the fans) gained from the tie against New Jersey lasted only for about two periods against Dallas on Dec. 21. After they took the lead 2-0 in the second, the Habs were on their way to victory in the third, but as faith would have it... Dallas scored at 13:54 of the second to take control of the rest of the game with 16 shots on goal in the second (Habs, 11) and 11 in the third (Habs, 6). Darryl Sydor scored while Malakhov was blocking Hackett's view with 6:06 left in the third. With this tie, the Stars, first overall at 19-5-6, kept alive a nine-game unbeaten streak and the Habs posted their fourth tie in five games.

It's no wonder that Dave King said, "The Habs are not a very happy team." The chemistry is still good but it's disappointing to post only two wins in 19 games. And also think about all of the tied games (five of the last 10), including the last two against New Jersey and Phoenix. It makes one think about the necessity to impose a shootout if an overtime period is not sufficient to determine a real winner.

At least two names come out of all this shining: Brunet and Hackett. The first has been giving his all and scoring important goals, and the second makes good saves to keep his team in a game. Hackett made 41 saves out of 43 shots on goal against Nashville while his teammates made 27 shots. The goalie seems very hopeful. "We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We have a good team. When our injured players come back, we will be playing at full speed. We've been playing well for the last two week," said Hackett.

We will soon see if Hackett is right and if the Habs should take the 10-year-old boy with his sign along for the long stretch of road games. The team that is posting the worst road record might just need that inspiration when it faces Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and Colorado. The outcome could decide if the Habs get a playoff spot or a good draft choice.

And please, Santa, no tie for Christmas...

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