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Canadiens Watch: Catching the injury bug

America calls itself the land of opportunity, but that phrase could just as easily be applied to Montreal right now.

After two seasons of being an exceptionally healthy team, the Montreal Canadiens have been blasted with injuries of late. Captain Saku Koivu, No. 1 goalie Carey Price, hard-rock defenseman Mike Komisarek and up-and-down winger Chris Higgins have all missed varying degrees of time with a variety of ailments.

While no team wants to see so many of its top players on the sideline, injuries to established players always open the door for a young player or somebody toiling in a smaller role to prove their worth.

The Habs have already seen some solid play from winger Matt D’Agostini, who has four goals in seven games this year since being summoned up from Hamilton of the American League. Now it’s time to see what center Ben Maxwell can do. Maxwell knows a thing or two about injuries, having battled an elbow problem that forced him to miss a good chunk of time while he was playing in the Western League.

Now, with so many Habs on the sideline or struggling, Maxwell has a shot to show he belongs in the big leagues.

Even when he had a healthy lineup, coach Guy Carbonneau was prone to juggling lines in an attempt to find the balance that’s eluded his team all season. There really are jobs available up and down the lineup right now and at this point Carbonneau is going to ride whoever has the hot hand.

Not everybody trying to answer opportunity’s knock is coming up from the AHL. Sergei Kostitsyn and Guillaume Latendresse have already been healthy scratches this year, but both have a chance to play their way out of the doghouse. Kostitsyn in particular is capable of producing so much more than he has this season and with the Montreal power play as anaemic as it has been of late, he may well continue to get ice time on the man advantage.

This column also appears in the Montreal Metro newspaper.

Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Fridays.

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