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Canadiens will go with hot rookie Jaroslav Halak in goal until he loses

The Canadian Press
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New York Rangers Matt Cullen takes a shot on Montreal Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak. (CP PHOTO/Ian Barrett) Author: The Hockey News

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Canadiens will go with hot rookie Jaroslav Halak in goal until he loses

The Canadian Press
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Halak, the starter in each of Montreal's five consecutive victories, will be in goal again on Friday night against the Senators in Ottawa. "If he wins, he'll be in there Saturday night (at home against Buffalo) and if he wins again, he'll be there Tuesday night (at home against Boston)," Carbonneau said.

"If he loses? I haven't figured that out yet."

Carbonneau seemed to step back somewhat from a statement earlier this week that No. 1 goalie Cristobal Huet may return from a hamstring injury in one of the weekend games.

But it is still possible. Huet was to see a doctor on Friday, hoping to get clearance to return. The French goaltender has been out since he tore his left hamstring during a Feb. 14 game against New Jersey.

In Huet's favour is that he has earned at least one point (three wins and two extra-time losses) in five starts against the Sabres this season.

Carbonneau wants to get Huet in a game or two to get his reflexes back before the playoffs, but the Canadiens are in a six-team battle for the last three Eastern Conference spots and right now are riding Halak's hot hand.

"Cristobal did the job for us last year," Carbonneau said. "If the opportunity is there to put him in the net, we will, but as long as Halak is winning, it's not urgent."

The Canadiens also have goaltenders David Aebischer and Michael Leighton on hand, although neither is expected to see action any time soon.

Halak, 21, has been solid through the Canadiens winning streak, allowing only 10 goals in five games to improve to 8-4-0 since he was called up from AHL Hamilton when Huet got hurt.

Montreal is 3-3-1 against the Senators this season, but lost the last two in back-to-back games in early February.

"They're a team that likes to attack and force things," said Carbonneau. "They'll bring three in to forecheck and their defence will pinch and that's when you have to catch them.

"That's what we've been doing lately - taking advantage of two-on-ones and three-on-twos."

Another bright spot of late for the Canadiens has been their forward lines, which have all been producing.

Alex Kovalev, who has two goals in each of the last two games, is dangerous on a trio with rookies Guillaume Latendresse and Maxim Lapierre, but more impressive has been Tomas Plekanec between Chris Higgins and rookie Andrei Kostitsyn.

"When we weren't winning earlier, maybe we were relying on one line too much," said Higgins. "Now all our lines are producing and that makes it easier to win.

"It makes it tougher for the opposition to play against us because they usually have one defensive line to play against your big line, so it's worked out well for us."

Plekanec has goals in each of his last three games to reach 20 for the season, a career high. Kostitsyn has 11 points in 13 games since he was called up on Feb. 22.

"I think he's got his confidence now," Higgins said of Kostitsyn, a fine skater and passer. "He knows his role and he's comfortable playing with Tomas and I.

"We like getting him the puck because he's a pretty skilled player."

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Canadiens will go with hot rookie Jaroslav Halak in goal until he loses