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Jim McIsaac

There are a couple of ways of seeing this, depending on your natural panic level.

For Jacques Martin to turn to back-up goalie Peter Budaj in what amounts to a must-win game for the listless Montreal Canadiens undoubtedly demonstrates brass.

So is giving the night off to his number one goalie, workhorse Carey Price, a panic move, a last-ditch application of the jumper cables?

Or is it the decision of a coach who feels so secure in his position that he can afford to send the Slovak, who had an, ahem, indifferent training camp, in for his maiden Bell Centre game amid this pressure cooker?

To know Martin is to accept that there is no reliable way to divine what he's thinking or for anyone but him to answer that question - and he isn't inclined to.

What he did say after the team's pre-game skate is that the Habs have four games this week - the Florida Panthers on Monday, then Philadelphia on Wednesday and two games against Boston to close out the week - and that he doesn't want to run Price ragged.

The Panthers have shown a gift in past seasons for giving Montreal fits on home ice, and are off to a respectable 4-3 start this season.

But in fairness to Martin, if the Habs were 4-1-2 instead of 1-4-2, everyone would have assumed that this was a logical game for Budaj's bow.

Logic is of course out the window in Habs nation (although somewhat unreasonably, the last time the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup they got off to a similarly miserable start).

For all that, there is no panic in the room, as winger Mathieu Darche said, "more than the losses there's the way you lose. And we have been getting better. We played our best game against Buffalo and lost, we had a strong game against Toronto and lost, but it's not like the system is broken all of a sudden. This is no time to panic."

In addition to the change in goaltenders, Martin is sending veteran defenceman Jaroslav Spacek back into the fray. The Czech hurt his ribs in the season's second game.

Monday will also be debut night for newly-acquired centre Petteri Nokelainen, who came over from the Phoenix Coyotes on Sunday.

The Finn got a text message from his good pal Saku Koivu on the joys of playing in Montreal, and is keen to embark on his latest new start.

A solidly-built, right-handed centre, Nokelainen will doubtless be an upgrade on fourth-line centre Andreas Engqvist - the oft-injured, well-travelled pivot is a former first-round draft pick, which in addition to checking off one Pierre Gauthier's usual boxes, hints at a reasonable talent level.

He will be flanked by Darche and minor-league call-up Mike Blunden.