The reporter from Montreal admitted he wasn't quite sure how to properly phrase his question in English today to Canes coach Paul Maurice. The gist of it: was this season a "write-off" at this point?
"No, no, we don't feel that way," Maurice said. "That will never be a decision that we make.
"We've got a fair number of our kids up anyway. ... We're playing as hard as we can to win, we're playing (hard) every night and we've been playing pretty darn well for a month. We certainly don't have an awful lot to show for it, but absolutely not.
"We don't look at it that way. We also don't look at the standings because it doesn't make you feel very good."
Others in the Montreal media, like many in the league, posed the same questions again to Maurice. In short, what's gone wrong this season? How can a team seen as a possible Stanley Cup contender in preseason be sitting last in the league?
"There's no one (thing)," Maurice said. "I thought for a long stretch it was more the guys who were playing hurt that were a problem for us.
"Clearly you can't lose your key guys as often as we have and expect to be leading your division. but we've had guys playing through an awful lot of stuff and that's been a real challenge for us, no question."
Maurice said losing goaltender Cam Ward to the leg laceration was a big blow in that backup Michael Leighton "came in and struggled a little bit" and the Canes had to sign Manny Legace. Leighton later was claimed off re-entry waivers by the Philadelphia Flyers.
Injuries also have knocked Eric Staal, Erik Cole, Joni Pitkanen, Tim Gleason and Niclas Wallin out of the lineup at various points in the season.
"Any one injury can't be an excuse for the season," Maurice said. "But we clearly missed Cam and I think Eric's battled all year -- out of the lineup but even prior to that. He's back putting some numbers up and scoring, but still I don't think he's ... right at his A game."
Staal and Sergei Samsonov had a "maintenance day" and missed Tuesday's practice. Both are expected to play against the Canadiens.
Gleason returned Monday for the Rangers game after missing three games with concussion-type symptoms, and Wallin may be back Wednesday for the Canadiens.
"He's pretty close," said Maurice, who said a decision on Wallin would be made after Wednesday's morning skate.
The Canes will take a two-day Christmas break after Wednesday's game. On Saturday, the Philadelphia Flyers will be in town -- with new head coach Peter Laviolette and assistant Kevin McCarthy behind the bench, and possibly Leighton in goal. Flyers goalie Brian Boucher cut a finger Monday against the Florida Panthers and was forced to leave the game, bringing in Leighton.
"It's a fun week," forward Matt Cullen said. "Obviously everyone looks forward to Christmas but we've got some business to take care of before that. These games right now are too important for us to get caught up in anything else.
"We'll be focused tomorrow and ready for that game."