MONTREAL -- The conspiracy theorists were out in full force in the home of hockey yesterday.
With Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jose Theodore banished to the bench for today's game against the Senators at the Bell Centre, speculation was rampant he'll be dealt.
Not only has Theodore struggled with a 3.22 goals-against average and a .889 save percentage, but coach Claude Julien may have started a firestorm by announcing backup Cristobal Huet will play.
Now, that could be just because Huet stopped 34 shots in the Habs' 4-3 shootout victory when the Senators visited on Dec. 20, but there's talk GM Bob Gainey is getting ready to make a deal.
While there has been speculation the Colorado Avalanche -- who have plenty of goaltending problems -- are interested in Theodore, there's also whispers the Vancouver Canucks could be ready to make a pitch.
Naturally, if Gainey is going to make that kind of deal with the Canucks, he'd have to insist he wants struggling Todd Bertuzzi in return.
To make matters worse, the Habs are losing. The club is on a four-game losing streak, has won just two of its last 10 and six of the last 23. Those aren't good numbers.
NOT HAPPY: Senators coach Bryan Murray isn't pleased with the way his club has been taking bad penalties, but he's not completely happy with the referees either. The Sens were burned for the winning goal by the Bruins in a 4-2 loss Thursday in Boston when C Chris Kelly was sent to the box for high sticking late in the third and Boston's Brad Boyes scored on the ensuing power play. Murray was incensed. "I guess it's okay to punch a guy in the face, like happened to us against Boston three times, but if you touch him with your stick then that's not okay," said Murray. "I just get upset. I'm a coach and we have to be careful of the stick infractions. In that game against Boston in the third period, I saw Chris Kelly touch the guy with his stick and I knew right away he was getting a penalty. There's no question we have to do a better job and be more disciplined."
COMING BACK: Ottawa D Brian Pothier was on the ice for practice yesterday at the Bell Centre and will be in the lineup today. He didn't play in Boston because of a foot injury he suffered blocking a shot in the second period against Washington on Wednesday. "It was a tough one to shake off and by the time I got off the plane (in Boston) there wasn't much I could do. It had stiffened right up on me," said Pothier. D Andrej Meszaros, who took a shot off the left ankle from Milan Jurcina against the Bruins, didn't practise, but will play. "It's still a little sore, but I should be fine," said Meszaros.
AROUND THE BOARDS: Even without captain Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Martin Havlat, Habs D Sheldon Souray says the Senators are still a formidable opponent. "Obviously, they're missing some pretty good offensive guys," said Souray. "I look at Ottawa -- even without their leader Alfie -- are still a strong hockey team. When I think of the Ottawa Senators, I think of the team we used to have in New Jersey. We would lose a guy and somebody else would step in and do the job. They don't have people, but that doesn't mean they're going to just change their style. They've still got the best defenceman in the league in Zdeno Chara and Wade Redden is probably No. 2. They'll play you any way you want to play them. That's why I think they're the best team. They've got so much talent and they play such a disciplined system."