WINNIPEG, CANADA - OCTOBER 9: It wouldn't be an early season Habs game without another regular defenseman getting hurt, now would it? (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)
The Canadiens are just two games into an 82 game season, but they're already testing the organization's improved depth. Three injuries in two games, to go along with the Andrei Markov and Ryan White injuries to start the year, have made the Canadiens already make two calls to Hamilton, and now the team is carrying a bare minimum 18 skaters to go with the two goalies on their active roster.
Andreas Engqvist and Aaron Palushaj technically didn't make the Canadiens out of training camp, and Yannick Weber was supposed to be adjusting to playing right wing to start the year. No more. In Weber's two games, he's spent considerably more time filling in for injured defensemen than leading the forecheck: Chris Campoli's major injury in Game 1, and Jaroslav Spacek's much more minor injury in Game 2 have forced Weber to play his natural position. And he'll be back there for a few weeks, by the looks of things. Andrei Markov has not been cleared for contact and is still skating on his own as he continues his recovery, while Spacek will now be out of the lineup for 2-3 weeks. That means a defence that is down three regulars (all left handed), meaning Hal Gill-P.K. Subban is the only defense pairing that the Canadiens would run in a perfectly healthy scenario. Josh Gorges moves to the left side to skate with Raphael Diaz, while Alexei Yemelin and Weber will for the team's third pairing.
Beyond those six, the defence is quite thin: Hamilton won their season opener on Saturday 5-2 over Rochester, using only four defensemen that are signed by the Canadiens: Frederic St. Denis, Mark Mitera, Alex Henry and Joe Stejskal. The waiver claim of Jeff Woywitka left a temporary void, as newly signed Joe Callahan did not figure into the mix for the opener. As to who might be next on the depth chart, St. Denis played the most in the pre-season for the Canadiens and scored twice in the Bulldogs' win, so he'd be a good option, while Callahan and Henry both have NHL experience. Brendon Nash, who played 2 games last year with the Canadiens, is also out for months after having shoulder surgery in September.
Up front, the injury to Mike Cammalleri (out 10-14 days) means the Canadiens will again be promoting Travis Moen to top six duty, much to the chagrin of a large secion of fans. With Lars Eller being eased into the lineup on the 4th line as a winger (in Moen's spot, essentially), Martin is electing to keep his 2nd and 3rd lines in tact, while going with a 'kid line' of Eller-Engqvist-Palushaj on the 4th. Beyond Palushaj, the next callup option is likely Michael Blunden, who was one of the later cuts, although Brock Trotter's impressive season opener for Hamilton (2 goals, 2 assists) certainly puts his name back on the radar. Brian Willsie also remains an option up front if needed.
The Canadiens may have boasted about improved depth heading into the season, but just two games in, there isn't much more of it left to use. Getting through the rest of October with no more significant injuries might be as important as the team's record in that span.