Komisarek expects rude 'welcome'

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

MONTREAL -- Feel free to take Mike Komisarek at his word on this one.

We won't.

And safe to say hockey fans in both Original Six cities know better than to wink along with the Maple Leafs defenceman when he claims, as he did yesterday, that he hasn't given tonight much thought.

He may be American by birth, but Komisarek has been through enough of these Saturday night games against the Leafs, wearing bleu, blanc et rouge to know what awaits.

For one, the Leafs' big free-agent acquisition will be booed just about every time he touches the puck at the Bell Centre when he faces his former team on the road for the first time.

'MARATHON'

For another, Komisarek came dangerously close to embarrassing himself in the season opener between the two teams, taking 15 minutes in penalties in a 4-3 overtime loss at the Air Canada Centre.

"It's a marathon of a season," Komisarek said yesterday in Buffalo prior to meeting the Sabres. "Certain games will have more of an emotional weight or bearing. We'll see (today). I'm sure there will be a huge media scrum. I will worry about it then."

The media throng may be the easiest part of his day.

Habs fans are notorious for savaging those who dare to leave town. It doesn't help that Komisarek after the team's meek dismissal from the playoffs this past spring, made it clear he wasn't going to re-signing with Montreal.

That he ended up with the hated, historic foes will only add to the emotion in the building tonight.

Komisarek aside, might there be some added energy in a special Halloween night edition of the rivalry?

Leafs fans were arriving in droves by trains, planes and automobiles throughout the afternoon and evening yesterday.

We'll also make the wager that many still were painting the town blue and white by the time both the Leafs and Habs were to return in the wee hours from their games in Buffalo and Chicago respectively.

The hyper-demanding supporters of both teams have certainly been on enough of a wild ride in a season that is barely 10 games old.

As miserable as it has been in Toronto, going winless in its first eight games, the Habs have inflicted a different kind of punishment on its faithful.

Montreal won its first two games -- including that overtime effort on opening night -- then lost four before winning its next five. That put the Habs at 6-6 prior to last night which, while much better than tonight's opponent, only means they are a couple of losses away from sparking crisis throughout Quebec.

For bonus chat material, new coach Jacques Martin has innocently (or so it seems) created a full-blown goaltender controversy.

Remember when Carey Price was considered to be a threat to challenge for a spot on Team Canada for the Olympics? Before he got the call last night against the Hawks, Price had trouble getting a start, as Jaroslav Halak started the previous five, winning four of those before a stinker in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

GOT THE START

Price, who has never been a healthy backup for that many games in Montreal, got the start in the Windy City, but who knows who will get the call tonight as the Habs, like the Leafs, play for the third time in four nights?

Martin, by the way, was of the misguided notion that declaring before the season that it would take between 15-20 games to see what the team had would earn him a grace period. Fat chance.

The early verdict on Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez and Mike Cammalleri is positive enough to forget for a while those who left such as Alex Kovalev, Alex Tanguay and Saku Koivu.

They may ultimately forget about Komisarek, too. Just not tonight.

ROB.LONGLEY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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