Alexei Emelin, who returned to Montreal on Monday for family reasons, rejoined the Canadiens Tuesday in Tampa and was on the ice for a morning skate as the team prepared to face the Lightning Tuesday night (7:30 p.m., TSN-HABS, RDS, TSN Radio 690).
The return of Emelin means defenceman Jarred Tinordi will be a healthy scratch for the second straight game. Carey Price will start in goal for the Canadiens, while Ben Bishop will be in the Lightning net.
The lines at Tuesday’s morning skate were the same as during Monday’s practice, with Lars Eller on the third line with Daniel Briere and Brian Gionta, while Rene Bourque drops to the fourth line with Ryan White and Michael Bournival. George Parros will be a healthy scratch.
The game could be a playoff preview with the Canadiens and Lightning looking like they will be first-round opponents.
“Given that this could be a playoff preview tonight, this is a game that everyone’s been waiting for,” defenceman Francis Bouillon told reporters in Tampa after the morning skate. “We’re two teams that play similar styles of hockey. They’ve got good depth, a good goaltender and also a lot of speed. It’s important for us to go out there and win this one to earn a playoff spot. It’s an important game and we definitely want to win it.”
The Canadiens have won five straight and can clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Lightning. In the first three meetings between the teams this season, one went to overtime and two went to a shootout with the Lightning holding a 2-0-1 record.
Said Lightning sniper Steven Stamkos: “We’re fighting with them for home ice. It’s going to be a playoff atmosphere. … We’re not worried about the playoffs now, we’re just worried about playing hockey and getting as many points to finish as high as we can.”
Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty was announced Tuesday as the Molson Cup winner for the February-March segment of the season based on three-star voting. Pacioretty, who has a career-high 35 goals this season, was named the first star four times during that segment of the season.
Here’s how the lines and defence pairings are expected to look for the Canadiens against the Lightning:
Crisp, a 6-foot-3, 226-pound forward, played 67 games with the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves this season, posting 28-27-55 totals and 120 penalty minutes. He was selected by the Canadiens in the third round (71st overall) of the 2013 NHL draft.
Vail, a 6-foot, 194-pound forward played 67 games with the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires this season, posting 32-51-83 totals and 39 penalty minutes. He was selected by the Canadiens in the fourth round (94th overall) at the 2012 NHL draft.
(Photo by Dave Sidaway/The Gazette)