Tomas Plekanec, who missed Saturday’s game against the Florida Panthers for family reasons, was back on the ice Monday morning in Florida as the Canadiens practised in preparation for Tuesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning (7:30 p.m., TSN-HABS, RDS, TSN Radio 690).
But the Canadiens announced that defenceman Alexei Emelin had left the team to return to Montreal, also for family reasons. Emelin is expected to rejoin the team in Tampa on Tuesday and be ready to face the Lightning.
“We’re glad to have Pleky back because he does so many things for us,” coach Michel Therrien told reporters after the team practised Monday morning in Sunrise, Fla. “Alexei had to go home for personal reasons, but the good news is that he’ll be back tomorrow.”
Tuesday’s game against the Lightning could be a first-round playoff preview for the teams. The Canadiens (43-26-7) are in second place in the Atlantic Division, two points ahead of the Lightning (41-25-9) with Tampa Bay holding a game in hand. The Boston Bruins (52-17-6) have already clinched first place in the division. The second- and third-place teams in the division will meet in the first round of the playoffs with the second-place team having home-ice advantage.
Is Tuesday’s game a must-win for the Canadiens?
Not necessarily, coach Michel Therrien says.
“We’ll see where we are at the end,” Therrien told reporters. “Our goal is to make the playoffs and we’re in a playoff mindset. We’re going to play hard and it’s going to be good hockey game but, for us, it’s about how we play.”
Max Pacioretty isn’t overly concerned about home-ice advantage in the playoffs.
“Obviously, you want (home-ice advantage) but I’m kind of mixed on it,” he said. “It’s not the worst thing to play two games on the road and then get back into your own bed, but basically it’s the same ice, the same rink, the same players so it doesn’t matter.”
Josh Gorges, who has been out since March 5 with a broken hand, skated Monday with strength and conditioning coach Pierre Allard and hopes to return to the lineup for the final week of the regular season.
“There’s still some swelling and it’s sore around the incision, but it’s healing,” Gorges said Monday.
After Tuesday’s game, the Canadiens will enjoy a day off Wednesday in Florida, then practice in Tampa Thursday before flying to Ottawa, where they will face the Senators Friday night. The Detroit Red Wings will visit the Bell Centre on Saturday night.
Here’s how the lines and defence pairings looked at practice:
(Photo by John Mahoney/The Gazette)