Canadiens stay home with stomach virus while Thrashers practice

“The Bell Centre ghosts aren’t contagious,” Thrashers coach Bob Hartley quipped when asked if he was worried about the virus spreading to his club.

Atlanta is on a 1-2-2 skid and has blown third-period leads in its last two games, so Hartley wanted his team on the ice ahead of a meeting with the Canadiens on Tuesday night.

Montreal is on a season-high three-game losing streak, which may be due in part to a gastro-intestinal virus that affected several players in the past five days.

The bug first bit the team during a 5-1 loss last Thursday night in Washington, where the Capitals had several players hit by a stomach virus during a four-game losing run in the last week of December.

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The Canadiens cancelled practice on Friday because five players had the illness. Two others, forwards Saku Koivu and Guillaume Latendresse, missed a 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers and centre Tomas Plekanec sat out a 3-0 loss Sunday to the New Jersey Devils.

Many other players played despite feeling weak. Head coach Guy Carbonneau told all his players to stay home Monday to recover.

“The Canadiens had a tough week because players were sick,” said Hartley. “But we know they’ll be ready.

“It’s a tough situation for a coach when you don’t know who will be able to play.”