Queasy Canadiens feeling better, hope stomach virus has left the building

The Canadian Press
The Hockey News

Queasy Canadiens feeling better, hope stomach virus has left the building

The Canadian Press

"It was devastating," added a much fitter-looking Ryder on Tuesday, the first in the last five days that no Canadien reported sick.

All but the injured Radek Bonk (sore neck) and Steve Begin (sore back) were on the ice for a game-day skate ahead of Tuesday night's meeting with the Atlanta Thrashers.

And while they weren't declaring the epidemic over, many players looked healthier than they have since the bug first bit the team around the time of a 5-1 loss in Washington last Thursday.

Coach Guy Carbonneau, who also caught the virus, said eight or nine players as well as the training staff and other team personnel had fallen sick. Some who didn't have the fever, vomiting or diarrhea simply felt weak. The illness lasts between 24 and 72 hours.

The spread of gastroenteritis was not confined to the Bell Centre, as reports said 29 health care institutions in the city were dealing with the bug, said to be the worst outbreak in 10 years. Similar outbreaks have been reported around the world.

For the Canadiens, it played havoc with the roster and the team's performance as it ran up a season-high three-game losing streak, with defeats Thursday in Washington, Saturday to the New York Rangers and Sunday to the New Jersey Devils.

The entire team was told to stay home Monday while the dressing room, training room and all equipment was washed and sanitized.

"They took everything out," said Carbonneau. "All the equipment, all the gym equipment, the underewear.

"They washed all the sticks. Everything a player can touch, they cleaned."

He was relieved to see the extra energy players had in practice.

"It was fun to hear the players this morning all say they had good breakfasts," he said. " It's not something you can get rid of easily.

"This is the worst I've seen, but hopefully it's passed and we won't have to talk about it. But I'd be surprised if we don't have another one or two guys (get sick) in the next couple of months."

Defenceman Sheldon Souray looked terrible as he played through the weekend games. But he was in a cheerier mood on Tuesday.

"It's like I'm a different human being - it's unbelievable," he said. "Reading in the papers about hospitals and nursing homes hit by the bug. You see it's pretty serious.

"Unless you got it, you probably think 'Hey, just suck it up.' But it's pretty hard to suck up."

The virus struck just as the Canadiens were hitting a rough patch in what had been a strong first half of the NHL season. While sickness can explain some of their losing run, they also know they have to play with tougher with more energy.

The team held a meeting after their skate to go over the missed assignments and other mistakes that cost the team valuable points over the past two weeks.

"We looked at what went wrong and what we can improve," said Carbonneau. "When you go through a slump like this, you have doubts about the system and the things you do.

"But we're not that far off. It's little details. One-on-one battles. Our awareness without the puck, of who's around you, so you don't lose coverage, and our focus has to be a lot better."

If not, they'll hear from it from the demanding Bell Centre fans. Some even booed on Sunday when they knew the team was sick.

"It's time to get our game back in gear," said Souray. "There are no excuses now.

"We're healthy. We've got everyone back. We actually have a few extra bodies. We want to keep climbing in the standings and get that respect back."

Souray, Ryder, Craig Rivet, Mike Komisarek and Garth Murray missed practice on Friday with the illness, but all but Murray, who has a hand injury, played on the weekend. Saku Koivu and Guillaume Latendresse missed the game on Saturday and Tomas Plekanec missed the Sunday game.

The Canadiens called up forwards Maxim Lapierre and Mikhail Grabovski to fill in. With Murray coming off the injured reserve list on Wednesday, they are likely to be returned to AHL Hamilton.


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Queasy Canadiens feeling better, hope stomach virus has left the building