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Monday morning with the Habs, and Sidney Add to ...

Happy Monday folks, if that's even possible.

After the weekend that was, during which vos Canadiens de Montréal dropped a pair of games, the home side's pre-season record stands at 2-2. They've lost two in a row, Carey let in four, everybody panic!

Tonight the Stanley Cup Champeens are in town for the last of a brutal five-games-in-five-nights stretch, and looks like Sidney Crosby will play against his childhood favourites.

It would be interesting if Jacques Martin decides to throw Eric Neilson into the fray. Fredericton's Fists of Fury seems to have self-detaching gloves, which leaped off his hands three times against the Sens last Friday, and again in Saturday's rematch.

But there's another story-within-the-story involving Neilson.

According to our friends at Radio-Canada, who have a good memory for such things, Neilson and a then-15-year-old Crosby were billeted together in Rimouski during their junior days. Neilson's listed position on that Oceanic team, you'll have guessed, was guy-who-makes-sure-nothing-bad-happens-to-Sid.

The Semenko to his Gretzky, if you will.

"We were pretty inseparable for those two years in Rimouski. In the morning we'd always eat breakfast together before going to the arena. I remember Sidney used to make a lot of noise drinking his orange juice. That early in the morning it used to really get on my nerves. When I wanted revenge, I'd make a milkshake while he was still sleeping and I made sure to make lots of noise with the blender," Neilson told the network.

Neilson, who like most guys earning their living with their dukes, is actually a very soft-spoken, genial sort off the ice, told Rad-Can that Crosby gave him a shout after the Friday game to give him an attaboy.

"From the very beginning with Sidney, I knew he'd become a really special person. He's not only a natural-born hockey player, he's an exceptional guy. He learned French amazingly fast, he comes from a close-knit family and has strong values, he doesn't forget where he came from," Neilson said.

The 25-year-old hopes to play in the NHL, although he'll likely be given a roster spot in Hamilton to begin with, which is actually a decent step up for a guy who's played minor pro in places like Long Beach, Calif., and in Alaska.

****

Quebec often gets a bad rap for its political tribalism, if you want some insight on where the animosities come from, look no further than the crowd at Sunday night's Habs-Broons tilt in Quebec City.

"Montreal is the enemy," one fan told La Presse.

The Nordiques may have left town 15 years ago, but that's a mere intake of breath in a town where a healthy number of people still harbour a grudge over the events of late summer 1759 (that'd be the battle for the Plains of Abraham, kiddies).

Some folks may cheer for the Habs, but it's an interim measure more than a firm conviction, even if more and more Habs jerseys are worn east of Trois-Rivières, they want their own club dammit (when you feel as strongly as a lot of folk there do about such things, it's not that big a leap to want your own country too).

"We'll cheer for the Canadiens - in the meantime," another fan told La Presse's Marc-Antoine Godin (who is a fine reporter, for those of you who read French).

Still, there was a big crowd last night (15,141 in a barn that holds 15,250) and more than one player was left to wonder why it is there's no team in the Vieille Capitale.

So allow us to leap on the bandwagon - along with Guy Lafleur, and, apparently, Claude Julien.

"Quebec City deserves a team, and it will have one," the Broons coach and one-time Nords scrub told the assembled hacks after the game, which Boston won 2-1.

Follow on Twitter: @MrSeanGordon

 

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