Montreal will be icing a decidedly different-looking lineup in Chicago on Wednesday — at least compared to what it’s had the last few weeks.
The big news, first and foremost, is that rugged defenseman Josh Gorges will return from a 15-game absence due to a hand injury to take on the ‘Hawks, his first action since early March.
The other news — mostly for poolies and those that like to wager — is that Montreal will be without starting goalie Carey Price and two of its top defensemen in Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin. The Habs will also be without Douglas Murray (suspended) as well as injured forwards Travis Moen and Brandon Prust.
These moves aren’t that surprising, given Montreal’s clinched a playoff spot and has dealt with a myriad of injuries this season. It’s also not surprising to see the club rest Markov — the oft-injured 35-year-old’s played a ton of hockey by his standards this year, appearing in all 79 games — or Emelin, who got a late start to this season after undergoing major knee surgery during the summer.
That said, there’s still the matter of first-round home ice advantage.
Montreal and Tampa Bay are all but guaranteed to meet in the opening round (that scenario can be clinched tonight, in fact) and the Bolts can still catch Montreal for second in the Atlantic. Tampa heads into tonight’s action four points back of the Canadiens, but with a game in hand.