All-Star Mike Komisarek of the Montreal Canadiens warms up during the McDonalds/NHL All-Star open practice at the Bell Centre in Montreal. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
MONTREAL - Judging Mike Komisarek on his performance at the NHL SuperSkills is a bit like taking a bulldozer to a racetrack to see how it corners.
Komisarek’s true value as a hockey player is measured in bruises, be it from the hits he dishes out or the shots he blocks as a rock-hard defenseman on the Montreal Canadiens blueline.
But the 27-year-old was voted an Eastern Conference starter by the hometown fans and he’s the first to tell you participating in an all-star weekend is not something he ever expected.
“Who would have ever thought the big, Polish defenseman from Long Island would be here amongst all these great hockey players,” Komisarek chuckled after the Eastern all-stars practiced Saturday morning at the Bell Centre. “It’s obviously a very special experience and it’s even better that it’s right here in Montreal, with our home fans. They’re the reason why I’m here; I got voted in by them.
“Without the fans, we wouldn’t have a game, so I’m humbled I was voted in by them.”
He’s also somewhat in awe of the competition he’ll be up against in the hardest shot event, which, in addition to Komisarek, features Vincent Lecavalier and Shea Weber, and a couple other rocket-launcher’s Komisarek was sure to note.
“I’m always a big fan of the underdog,” Komisarek said with a grin. “I wouldn’t say I’m a favorite. I was talking to Sheldon Souray and Zdeno Chara and those guys are in triple digits, easily, so I’ve got my work cut out for me, I’m really going to have to get a hold of one to have any chance to win.”
Souray, Komisarek was informed, theorized that his former Habs teammate, being a bit of a fish out of water and all, might feel compelled to show off his real talent by flinging himself in front of a few shots.
“Who knows,” Komisarek said. “I’m just more focused on hitting the net.”
Whether there’s an impromptu block from Komisarek or not, the hardest shot contest is shaping up to be the most painful one for Habs fans to watch. Montreal had a lethal power play for three years after the lockout thanks largely to the bombs fired by Souray and, last year, Mark Streit. But with both blueliners wearing other teams’ colors this year, the Canadiens power play has fizzled thanks to a serious lack of gun powder on the point.
Don’t miss, Marc
As a Boston Bruin taking part in the shooting accuracy event, Marc Savard has to know the bar is set pretty high for him. Former Bruin Ray Bourque was the king of pegging the pies and went 4-for-4 the last time the all-star weekend was in Montreal back in 1993.
So Marc, ready to repeat the feat?
“I don’t know about that, but it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Savard said. “I’m a little nervous, for sure, but I’m going to have fun with it.”
Up until recently, pretty much everything that happened this season was a source of enjoyment for Savard and the surging Bruins. But over the last month, the playmaking center had his wings clipped thanks to injuries to his usual linemates.
Savard had found some serious chemistry playing between Milan Lucic and Phil Kessel, but Lucic has been out of the lineup since Jan. 6 with a shoulder injury and Kessel has been sidelined with mononucleosis since Jan.10.
Savard is anxious for the trio to be reunited.
“We have a great mix,” said Savard, who may see Lucic back soon, but probably won’t see Kessel for a couple of weeks yet. “Milan really gets in there and bangs bodies and obviously Kes has that speed and great shot. We’ve been able to work off each other really well this year and I’ve missed them the last three weeks, they’ve been out, both of them, so hopefully they get back after the break and we continue to succeed.”
Members of the THN team will be filing reports from Montreal throughout the ASG weekend.