MONTREAL – Centre Tomas Plekanec is doubtful to play for the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night due to the flu, so rookie Mikhail Grabovski is expected to play a second straight game after temporarily abandoning the team during last week’s road trip.
Plekanec, who sat out a 3-1 loss Sunday in Anaheim, was to be evaluated before Tuesday night’s game against the New Jersey Devils.
Grabovski left the team when he was scratched from the lineup for a game Thursday in Phoenix. He flew ahead to Los Angeles, where the Canadiens played Saturday, to meet with agent Gary Greenstin.
He apologized to management and his teammates and expected to be returned to Hamilton of the AHL. But after Grabovski sat out the game in Los Angeles, he was back in against Anaheim and played on Montreal’s top line when Plekanec came up sick.
“He played the last game so, for me, the page is turned,” coach Guy Carbonneau said, adding he was not concerned that many fans and commentators felt Grabovski should have been benched longer or sent to the minors.
Winger Christopher Higgins said the team was willing to give Grabovski the benefit of the doubt – this time.
“I don’t think he knew how things work over here,” he said of the rookie from Belarus. “Maybe it’s different from back home where maybe they do that more frequently – show they’re angry and frustrated.
“Obviously, we aren’t happy with his decision, but not that he’s playing again. He’s a good player. He’s good to step-in for Tomas because he’s a good offensive guy, but it’s not something we take lightly – that he missed our flight and chose not to be with the team. Obviously, guys weren’t too thrilled with that.”
Higgins was thrilled to see his friend and fellow Long Island native Mike Komisarek chosen as the Canadiens candidate for the Bill Masterton Trophy for sportsmanship, perseverance and dedication to hockey.
Komisarek is Montreal’s most physical defenceman and is among the league leaders in hits and blocked shots. He also spent the first half of the 2005-’06 season flying back and forth between Montreal and Long Island to be with is mother, who died of cancer during the season.
“It’s nice he’s trying to turn that around into a positive thing by being involved in the community,” said Higgins. “Cancer is such a hot button thing.
“Everyone wants to get that cleaned up and Mike is certainly doing his part.”
Carbonneau said winger Steve Begin will miss a seventh game with a groin injury. Defenceman Ryan O’Byrne is to return after sitting out two games, so veteran Patrice Brisebois will likely be scratched.