MONTREAL -- Take a poll of NHL players, and Maxim Lapierre wouldn't necessarily turn out to be the most-despised opponent they play against.
Not with the likes of Sean Avery, Matt Cooke, Corey Perry and a handful of others in the league.
Lapierre likely wouldn't finish far behind them, though, and definitely could count on some strong support from the Penguins.
Suffice to say, none of them seemed unhappy that Lapierre wasn't present for their game against Montreal at the Bell Centre Thursday night.
While it went largely unnoticed a week ago -- and probably would have even if it hadn't been New Year's Eve -- Montreal traded him to Anaheim for defenseman Brett Festerling and a fifth-round draft choice in 2012.
Although that hardly was the kind of deal that's going to alter the balance of power in either conference, the Penguins who have had run-ins with Lapierre over the years don't mind that he's working on the far coast now.
"He's annoying," center Max Talbot said.
Penguins center Sidney Crosby, who had to skip the game because of an unspecified injury, has a history with Lapierre dating back to their days in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and made it clear earlier in the week that he was fine with the idea that Lapierre wouldn't be on the Montreal bench.
"I'm not going to miss him, that's for sure," Crosby said.
The Penguins had just two prospects in the just-concluded world junior championships in Buffalo, and neither was a high-profile force in the tournament.
Defenseman Simon Despres, a member of the second-place Canadian squad, had no goals and three assists in seven games. His most impressive stat was his plus-minus rating of plus-7, one of the team's best.
It's worth noting that Despres was cast in a more defensive role than he usually is with his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team, Saint John, and Jason Botterill, the Penguins' assistant general manager, said he was pleased with the way Despres handled those responsibilities.
"We're very happy with the way he played in more of a defensive role," he said. "He did a very good job of penalty-killing. For us, it was a good complement to what's going on with his game in the Quebec League."
Meanwhile, German forward Tom Kuehnhackl had one goal, no assists and a plus-minus rating of minus-5 in six games while playing for a team that clearly was overmatched.
"He was one of the best players on his team," Botterill said. "Unfortunately, his team just never got it rolling. Let's be honest. We would have liked if he'd torn up the tournament, but he didn't have the skilled players surrounding him [to make that possible]."
Kuehnhackl also failed to convert a penalty shot against Slovakia.
Botterill, by the way, is one of only four Canadians to win three medals competing in the world juniors.
It remains to be seen whether losing Lapierre will be significant for the Canadiens.
Early indications, however, are that acquiring defenseman James Wisniewski from the New York Islanders last week could pay off in a big way.
Wisniewski entered the game Thursday night with two goals and three assists in his first three games as a Canadien, and already has assumed a prominent role on Montreal's defense.
Montreal played without injured defensemen Roman Hamrlik and Josh Gorges, the latter of whom will miss the rest of the season because of a knee injury that must be surgically repaired. ... The Penguins are conducting scouting meetings in Florida.
Dave Molinari: email@example.com .