It’s been a good last few days for Alexei Emelin.
The Montreal defenseman, who signed a four-year, $16.4 million extension with the club on Thursday, has been cleared for contact after undergoing major offseason knee surgery, the Montreal Gazette reports.
Emelin is currently on injured reserve and hasn’t played in a single game this year. The 27-year-old had 12 points in 38 games last season while averaging 19:40 of ice time per game.
He practiced withe teammates on Monday and skated on a fourth defensive pairing, suggesting a possible return for Tuesday’s home game against St. Louis was unlikely. Emelin could, however, rejoin the team for Thursday’s game against rivals Ottawa — and if he does, Montreal will receive a huge boost.
The Habs are already without defenseman Davis Drewiske (shoulder) and only recently got Douglas Murray back into the lineup after he missed weeks with an upper-body ailment. Once Emelin returns, Montreal will be able to finally ice its top-six defense of Andrei Markov, P.K. Subban, Josh Gorges, Raphael Diaz, Emelin and Murray (with Francis Bouillon also in the mix.)