So Tom Kostopoulos pointed out that he has played on a number one line in the NHL today following practice at Denis Savard Arena. It was under the quickly-fired Eddie Olczyk in Pittsburgh.
Kostopoulos was on the first line with Saku Koivu and Chris Higgins at practice, replacing the beleaguered Michael Ryder. He clearly doesn't have the hands to be a first-line NHLer but it's also clear that Guy Carbonneau is aching to try something else, and Ryder is out of slack. The other options currently available to Carbo are limited: Guy Latendresse, who is still playing through some pain from his back injury, Mathieu Dandenault, whose offensive upside is limited, and Mikhail Grabovski, whose physical presence leaves much to be desired.
All of this smacks of putting a band-aid on a gaping wound. The Habs' second line has carried them offensively through the last four games, but the Koivu line needs to step it up. Is the answer in Hamilton?
Sergei Kostitsyn has been Hamilton's top forward so far this year, and both of his linemates from the London Knights last year are making waves at the NHL level. Is he ready? Bob Gainey doesn't like to rush his players and his patient approach paid huge dividends with Chris Higgins and Tomas Plekanec. Rushing guys can be disastrous (see: Latendresse, Guy).
So it looks like we'll see Kostopoulos on the top line Friday night in Buffalo. Ryder will see less ice, which won't make breaking his slump any easier. He seems to be overanalyzing everything and trying to make the perfect play instead of his usual shooting and crashing the net style.
Bob Gainey is certainly looking better and better for not offering him a long term deal in either of the last two offseasons. Ryder is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, which is usually a situation that will light a fire under a guy's ass. Not so far.
The important thing is, the Habs continue to win games and are getting unbelievable defense and goaltending. Carbo and Gainey are looking smarter and smarter with each passing day. Don't expect to sustain this level of success all year, injuries and other factors will obviously come into play eventually.
But enjoy the good times, as Mike Komisarek and the boys are.
I don't think anyone, myself included, hates the Leafs as much as Alex Kovalev. Did you see him react to Komi's OT winner? He jumped like his name was LeBron James.