It appeared that Jacques Martin was making a change, on the Montreal Canadiens (7-3-1) blue line, to start the November campaign.
Martin was thought to be listening to the concerns of the armchair coaches, and was going to sit out Jaroslav Spacek in Tuesday night's visit to the Columbus Blue Jackets (6-4-0).
Based on Monday's practice, Alexandre Picard appeared to be out of the press box and paired with Andrei Markov. Roman Hamrlik would then be with P.K. Subban. Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette also reported that Hal Gill and Josh Gorges remained together, but have switched sides.
"As a coach, you have to make decisions as to what is best for the team," said Martin on Monday, noting that top-level players are not exempt when they can't contribute. "You have to be fair, and treat people with respect, and hope that it brings the best out of them."
For now, the veteran defenseman seems to be denying the possible healthy scratch. "We make changes in practice, and it's an everyday routine," Spacek said, after Monday's practice. "You've got to work hard every day. I don't know if I'm a scratch, but I'm a veteran and I have to deal with it."
Come Tuesday's morning skate, Spacek was back with Hamrlik. The Canadiens coach explained on Tuesday that he spoke to his defenseman, and said he expects more consistency out of him.
The only other lineup change has Dustin Boyd taking Tom Pyatt's spot on the fourth line.
Columbus has made a change on their number two line. Nikita Filatov will move up with R.J. Umberger and Antoine Vermette, after some inspired play in the last four games.
"I thought he's played a little bit harder," said Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel. "We're going to give him a shot with Vermy and Umby, two pretty straight-on players. Having Nik there hopefully can help them offensively."
The big problem for Columbus at the moment is their offense, which sits 28th overall with 2.3 goals-per-game. Worse is their five-on-five that yields a 0.74 F/A ratio at even strength.
One of the biggest names struggling is captain Rick Nash (3G, 2A) who is a -8 in ten games. The 26-year-old winger has 2 goals and four assists against Montreal, so Tuesday's meeting could be a turnaround game for him.
The Blue Jackets have also had their share of injuries to start the 2010-11 campaign, but may have defensemen Mike Commodore back shortly. Fellow rearguard Jan Hejda has been cleared by team doctors and will play Tuesday night.
Mathieu Garon will get the start in goal and the former Canadiens looks to improve on his perfect record (2-0) so far this season.
Attendance in Columbus is also a problem, with the box office sitting 27th in the league. As of 9:30 Monday, there was a nice block of four tickets just four rows behind the Habs bench. You'll have to check TicketMaster, but at At $93.50 a piece, that's a steal for Habs fans!
"The attendance issue is a combination of a rough economy and 8 years of not making the playoffs," said Matt Wagner of our SBN counterpart The Cannon. "Worse, is the disappointment of not making the playoffs last year, when on paper the team should have been better than the squad who made the playoffs in '09.
"If they get on a good winning tear, people will come to the rink. The fact that they sold out opening night, after the wins in Sweden, is proof of that. I think that people are just very reluctant to commit to big money for tickets, when they're not sure if Dr. Jacket or Mr. Hyde is going to show up right now."
Wagner also wrote a great assessment of the franchise's struggles, before the season started, when the team announced a near 25% drop in season ticket sales.
In their short head-to-head history, Montreal holds the regular season record over Columbus, with a 4-2-1 record and one tie. The Canadiens have only visited the Blue Jackets twice before, winning both games.
CANADIENS PROJECTED LINE UP
- ; - ; P.K. Subban -
SCRATCHES: Ryan O'Byrne,
Who's Hot? :(6G 4 A in nine games this season)
BLUE JACKETS PROJECTED LINE UP
Rick Nash - Derrick Brassard - Jakub Voracek
R.J. Umberger - Antoine Vermette -
Chris Clark - Samuel Pahlsson - Kyle Wilson
Derek Dorsett - Derek MacKenzie - Jared Boll
Rostislav Klesla - Marc Methot
Kris Russell - Anton Stralman
Jan Hedja - Fedor Tyutin
Mathieu Garon (Steve Mason)
INJURIES: Mike Commodore (Thumb), Ethan Moreau (hand), Kristian Huselius (foot)