MONTREAL -- As the NHL trade deadline draws nearer, Montreal Canadiens fans believe their inconsistent and undersized squad should ply the market for more muscle.
A QMI-Leger Marketing poll suggests 50% of Habs fans believe the team needs to pick up a bigger, tougher player if they hope to return to the Eastern Conference final. Hard-nosed Ottawa Senators winger Chris Neil was at the top of the fans' wish list.
The Canadiens, who haven't had an enforcer since Georges Laraque was bought out in January 2010, are noticeably smaller than such rivals as the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers. Defenceman P.K Subban is the team's leader in penalty minutes, but ranks only 31st in the league with 86 minutes in the box.
Asked which player they'd most like to see in the red, white and blue, fans chose Neil by a wide margin. The Senators winger had 20% support compared with 7% for New York Islanders tough guys Zenon Konopka and Trevor Gillies.
The Habs, as well as the Pittsburgh Penguins, are thought to be interested in acquiring the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Neil before the Feb. 28 trade deadline.
The Canadiens held the sixth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference going into Thursday night's home game against Tampa Bay.
The Internet poll of 702 Quebecers was taken on Feb. 15 and had an error margin of 3.7 points, 19 times out of 20.
The Habs have made a roster move, but not involving a tough guy. They have traded a fifth-round draft pick to the Anaheim Ducks to reacquire veteran defenceman Paul Mara.
The move makes sense in light of the team's banged-up defence.
QMI Agency has learned that Hal Gill has a foot injury serious enough to shut him down for the season were it not for the Habs being in a playoff race. Fellow defenceman Jaroslav Spacek has a groin injury that will keep him out for at least two weeks.
Josh Gorges is recovering from surgery to his right knee and won't be available unless the Habs make a deep playoff run.
Forward Michael Cammalleri is nursing a sore shoulder but aims to return Sunday against the Calgary Flames.