Max Pacioretty has now spent enough time in Hamilton to allow the club to bring him back up and play the final two games of the regular season without hitting a total of 40 regular season games on the NHL roster. This means that he is now UFA eligible only in 2016 and not in 2015, a difference that could potentially save the Habs millions of dollars.
Given the current injury situation, and assuming Pacioretty is available again, what could Bob Gainey do to get the most out of his available roster players?
Assume the first line is left intact. I would try a second offensive line of Lapierre and Latendresse, with Andrei Kostitsyn replacing Kostopoulos.
I would use as the third (defensive) line Metropolit with Kostopoulos and Higgins. They have all been effective players in this role.
As much as I like Dandenault as the checking RW, Kosto can do a decent job covering for him, while Dandy takes on a more important role on D, replacing the very nervous Ryan O'Byrne.
Which brings us to the fourth line, meaning whatever is left over, playing whatever minutes are left available. Even with his disappointing season points-wise, Plekanec has to be in the lineup. I can't see us going to a Chipchura or Maxwell, nor moving Higgins to center at this point. Pacioretty would give us some speed and bumping ability, while at the same time minimizing the pressure on him to put up numbers since he would not be placed on one of the top two scoring lines.
Who play on RW? D'Agostini made a nice case for himself yesterday, hustling more than I've seen in a month, getting his nose dirty and obtaining some scoring chances. I wouldn't be afraid to use him again.
For the powerplay, I would try to replace Markov's passing ability from the left point with our other great passer, Tanguay, putting Gorges on the right side to replace Schneider. Hammer and Breezer would return to the second unit. d'Agostini and Higgins would alternate in Tanguay's spot on LW until we could see which of the two contributes more in that role.
Considering Pacioretty was being ''rested'' for the playoffs in the last few Hamilton games because of ''bumps and bruises'', I don't know how much gas he has left in the tank.
He can play, but Hamilton had already locked up a spot and they are locked into facing GR, no matter what happens, so I'm sure that also factored into him not playing. I personally wouldn't call him up, as Hamilton could do some damage in the playoffs (especially if they can find a way to beat the moose who imo are the top team in the AHL) and the Habs if they make the playoffs, without Markov it won't be pretty.