Can Scott Gomez bounce back in Montreal?

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Ever since Scott Gomez was traded to Montreal two seasons ago, times have been hard on the American centerman. Gomez hasn’t been injury prone while playing for the Canadiens, but instead he’s been thoroughly unproductive. Through two season in Montreal, Gomez has 19 goals and 78 assists. His first season saw him put up 59 points while last year he came up with just 38 of them and was a -15 in plus/minus rating.

Suffice it to say, Gomez has not lived up to expectations or the monstrous contract he came over from New York with. When you’re making $7.3 million against the cap, those kinds of numbers aren’t going to cut it, especially in Montreal.

Every new season is a chance at a new start and for the 31 year-old Gomez, this season gives him a chance to prove his absolute worth to the Canadiens and their fans who booed him for playing so poorly. Pat Hickey of The Montreal Gazette spoke to Gomez to tap into his brain about things.

Gomez has admitted that he was embarrassed by his play last season, but he took a lighthearted approach Thursday when asked if he had stepped up his offseason training regimen.

“I don’t think you get to play in the NHL for very long if you don’t work out. It wasn’t like I just found out what a weight was and decided to lift it. I might have changed some things up a little bit when it comes to my training this year but, at this level, keeping in shape is a year-round job.

“I didn’t spend that much time at home (in Alaska) this summer and just took the time to kind of focus and regroup and I’m ready to go,” Gomez added. “I’m ready to change things up with my approach, clear my mind and I just want to get out there and have fun again.”

Fun would be a great thing for Gomez to have because if things are working out that well for him, the Canadiens would likely be winning a lot more games. Tomas Plekanec has assumed the role as the Canadiens’ top centerman and while he does quite well in that role, getting Gomez going and clicking the right way would give the Habs two dynamic scoring lines. Gomez, for the most part, was more of an anchor than a help to his linemates.

With Erik Cole now with the Habs joining Brian Gionta, Mike Cammalleri, and Andrei Kostitsyn as the scorers there’s more depth to be had there for Montreal. If Gomez can’t get his play straightened out, then guys like Lars Eller will have to figure out a way to make it work. That’s daunting to say the least. If the Habs want to make a serious run in the playoffs and challenge for the Stanley Cup, they’re going to need Scott Gomez to find his touch to do it once again.

Into the fire: Halak, recalled yesterday, starts for Isles in Pittsburgh

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A little scene setting for you.

New York heads into tonight’s massive game in Pittsburgh sitting two points back of Boston for the final wild card in the Eastern Conference. The Isles have two games in hand on the B’s — who are idle tonight — so a win could move them into a playoff spot.

As such, the Isles will start a goalie that hasn’t played in the NHL in 85 days.

Against the league’s highest-scoring offense.

The goalie in question is Jaroslav Halak, who’s spent the last three months playing for the Isles’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport. Recalled yesterday, Halak will now face big league competition for the first time since Dec. 29, when he allowed four goals on 24 shots in a loss to Minnesota.

(Afterward, then-head coach Jack Capuano ripped Halak, saying he gave up “some soft goals to start” and “wasn’t sharp at all.”)

But Halak’s been really good in Bridgeport.

He’s posted a 17-7-1 record with a 2.15 GAA and .925 save percentage, and a pair of shutouts. And given how spotty Berube’s play has been as Greiss’ backup, the Isles really had no other choice than to recall Halak.

The club is in the midst of a compacted part of the schedule. Greiss was excellent in Wednesday’s win over the Rangers — stopping 34 of 36 shots in a 3-2 victory — but he was also busy.

The Isles are in Pittsburgh tonight, then host the Bruins on Saturday — another massive game — then host the Preds on Monday. It’s a compact part of the schedule, and Berube’s struggles have rendered him virtually unplayable, given how meaningful the games are (and, to borrow a timeless cliche, how vital points are at this time of the year.)

So it’s Halak tonight, and possibly more down the stretch.

For Tuukka Rask and the Bruins, a ‘bad goal’ at the worst possible time

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The growing ranks of Tuukka Rask detractors gained some serious ammunition during last night’s loss to Tampa Bay.

The deciding goal in the 6-3 defeat was a “bad one,” according to Rask and most anyone else who was watching.

It may have been a hard shot by Jonathan Drouin, unleashed at the top of the circle, but it still should’ve been stopped.

After the game, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters that Rask “needed to be better tonight.”

In fact, Rask hasn’t been very good the past few months. Since Jan. 1, his save percentage is just .888. But with nobody trustworthy behind him, he’s had to just play through his struggles.

It’s impossible to say if Rask’s numbers would be better if the Bruins had a more capable backup. He’d be more rested, though. And when he was struggling, the coach would at least have another option to consider. With an .897 save percentage on the season, Anton Khudobin simply hasn’t been reliable enough to garner that consideration.

Don’t expect Rask to get the next game off. Saturday in Brooklyn, the Bruins — losers of four straight in regulation, and suddenly on the verge of falling out of the playoff picture — face the Islanders in arguably the biggest game of both teams’ seasons.

Bolts recall Koekkoek, putting Garrison’s status into doubt

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The Tampa Bay Lightning, after earning a big win last night in Boston, may not have defenseman Jason Garrison tonight in Detroit.

The Bolts recalled d-man Slater Koekkoek from AHL Syracuse this morning — a move that would seem to put Garrison’s status into doubt against the Red Wings.

Garrison was forced to leave the Bruins game in the second period with a lower-body injury.

Koekkoek has played 29 games for the Lightning this season, recording no goals and four assists.

Melnyk blasts ‘whiner’ Crosby, who won’t face hearing for Methot slash

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Sidney Crosby won’t face a disciplinary hearing for his slash on Ottawa d-man Marc Methot, an NHL spokesman confirmed — news that won’t be welcomed by Sens owner Eugene Melnyk.

The incident occurred during Ottawa’s 2-1 win on Thursday night, and forced Methot from the game with a bloodied, lacerated finger. The club later announced that Methot would be “out for weeks” with the injury.

Crosby’s slash came two nights after he speared Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly below the belt. It should be noted that neither the O’Reilly spear or Methot slash resulted in penalty calls, and neither was subjected to supplementary discipline.

One individual that’s guaranteed to be upset with today’s news is Melynk. He appeared on TSN 1200 radio this morning and seemed to suggest the league was looking into the Crosby-Methot incident.

He also had a few choice words for No. 87: