McDonagh declared himself ready to return from a shoulder injury after skating Saturday at Bell Centre, but coach Alain Vigneault will make him rest a few more days before returning.
After sustaining the injury April 1 against the Vancouver Canucks, McDonagh has missed the past four games. His defense partner, Dan Girardi, will also sit out with wing Martin St. Louis, who was given the day off and did not skate.
"I feel really good. The last two days especially I've been able to get my shot back even harder. Passing and skating is no issue," McDonagh said. "I told them I'd feel ready to play. You've got to respect the coach's decision. He's running the team."
Goaltender Cam Talbot will start for the second time in 15 games. In a game in Montreal on Nov. 16, he made 22 saves for his first NHL shutout, a 1-0 win.
"We've come a long way since then. It was obviously a big moment for me at the time," Talbot said. "It's always tough to come in here and play against a team like this. To do what we were able to do last time was a big game for us moving forward in the season."
New York is assured of home ice in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against either the Philadelphia Flyers or the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Canadiens need a win to have any chance at home ice in the first round against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Entering play Saturday, the Lightning lead the Canadiens by one point for second place in the Atlantic Division. Tampa Bay completes its season Sunday afternoon against the Washington Capitals.
"Obviously we'd love to have home-ice advantage. I think that's a good thing, especially here in Montreal with the atmosphere we can bring," defenseman Josh Gorges said. "The most important thing is we're playing the right way. We focus in on the details and play the right style of play."
Goaltender Carey Price will start for Montreal, and forward Mike Blunden will be in the lineup after being called up Friday from the American Hockey League. Brandon Prust won't face his former New York teammates but he participated in the optional skate Saturday. It was his first practice since sustaining an upper-body injury that has kept him out since March 18.
Here are the projected lineups:
Injured: Chris Kreider (hand)