They ride to the rink together and hang out off the ice. Come on, guys, aren’t you battling for the No. 1 job on one of the NHL’s most storied franchises?
“We get along well, our wives get along well, they’re both Swiss,” Aebischer said Friday with a chuckle. “I mean, we’re teammates. I think it’s much easier and it’s better for the team if the two of us get along than we if couldn’t stand each other.”
That’s easier said than done when there’s so much on the line, not to mention the market and the team involved. But it’s true, the Swiss-born Aebischer and French-born Huet like each other despite the head-to-head battle.
“We get along and that makes for a good atmosphere,” said Huet. “We push each other. We try to stay in the net, too. After all it is a competition. But it’s very healthy. And it’s good for the team. I hope David does well when he’s in net and he hopes the same for me.”
Eventually Habs head coach Guy Carbonneau will probably zero in on one of them to be his go-to guy down the stretch but in the meantime both goalies are being rotated in two-game spurts.
Aebischer beat Edmonton in Montreal’s last game Tuesday and will be in net again Saturday at the Air Canada Centre against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Hockey Hall of Fame game (7 p.m. ET).
That means Huet will start Monday in Ottawa and Wednesday at Tampa.
“We’ve been getting outstanding goaltending from both of them,” said veteran Habs defenceman Craig Rivet, who along with his teammates signed autographs for fans at the Hockey Hall of Fame on Friday afternoon. “The team and the organization I think feel confident going with two guys.
“It just means that these guys will not be tired or worn down mentally and physically, especially playing in a city like Montreal. So far it’s been super for us.”
The Montreal media has prodded and prodded but neither goalie will bite.
“I think in Montreal they want to make a controversy over a lot of things,” said Rivet, who is in his 12th season with the Habs. “Whether it’s the language barrier, feuds on the team, or a goaltender controversy, that’s media-related. They have to sell papers. But honestly, there’s no controversy. Both guys are working towards being the best, they want to be No. 1, but it’s good to have a competition with another guy that you care about and you’re friends with.
“They’re close off the ice, which means a lot. It makes things that much less stressful for them.”
Huet, 31, came into the season as the apparent starter after his sensational second half last year and his solid first-round playoff showing against Carolina. But Aebischer has been too good to sit down this season.
Both goalies have played seven games to date. Aebischer has gone 5-1-1 with a 2.49 goals-against average and .925 save percentage while Huet is 3-2-2 with a 2.39 goals-against average and .919 save percentage.
“I think we’ve both proved that we can play in this league as a No. 1 guy,” said Aebischer, acquired from Colorado for Jose Theodore last season. “It just happens that there’s two of us on this team and only one guy can play at a time. But so far it’s helped the team and it’s helped us push each play well.”
The difference right now is that Huet has a little more security, signing a US$5.75-million, two-year deal in the off-season while Aebischer settled only for a one-year deal at $1.9 million.
He’ll be an unrestricted free agent July 1 but wants to stay put.
“Yeah, I like it a lot in Montreal,” said Aebischer. “I’ve had the chance to be in two great organizations. This city is hockey-crazy and I think for a hockey player it’s a great place to play. We’ll see what happens but I would like to play in Montreal next season.”
Aebischer, 28, chuckled when told by a reporter that it was somewhat appropriate he’d be in goal Saturday on the weekend many of hockey’s greats converge on Toronto for this year’s induction featuring headliner Patrick Roy.
While Roy began his career in Montreal before heading to Colorado, Aebischer has done the opposite.
“All I need now is three more Cups,” said Aebischer, who won a ring as Roy’s backup in Colorado in 2002 but remains three short of Roy’s tally.