MONTREAL – The lineups for both the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning are difficult to project ahead of tonight’s game.
Neither team went through line rushes at their morning skate and both teams are considering dressing seven defensemen, but for entirely different reasons.
In the Lightning’s case, the possible return of Ryan Malone from an upper-body injury that has cost him two games and the arrival of newly-acquired defenseman Brendan Mikkelson from the Calgary Flames give coach Guy Boucher the option of going either way, depending on Malone’s status come game time.
The loss of former Habs prospect JT Wyman to an upper-body injury in Ottawa on Thursday is mitigated by the return of Brett Connolly from the Canadian national junior team. Minor-league call-up Pierre-Cedric Labrie, a native of Baie-Comeau, Que., will play his first NHL game.
For the Canadiens, coach Randy Cunneyworth will have captain Brian Gionta available after an 11-game absence with a groin injury. He also said he may dress seven defensemen, but that decision would be based on how successful the team was with that lineup in their 7-3 win against Winnipeg on Wednesday.
Cunneyworth did not tip his hand either way, but it would appear he will be going with seven defensemen tonight based on what some of the players said. If that’s the case, one of Mathieu Darche or Michael Blunden would have to come out, and considering Blunden has seen his role increase considerably since Cunneyworth took over behind the bench eight games ago, Darche could be the odd man out.
Cunneyworth also said defenseman Alexei Emelin, who took a puck in the face at practice Friday, is expected to play with a full cage depending on how he felt after participating fully in the morning skate.
Just about the only thing set in stone is the goaltending matchup, with Boucher electing to go with former Habs goalie Mathieu Garon to face Carey Price, who starts for the 15th time in 16 games.
Here are the very tentative lineups for tonight’s game:
Michael Cammalleri – Tomas Plekanec – Brian Gionta
Max Pacioretty – David Desharnais – Erik Cole
Travis Moen – Lars Eller – Andrei Kostitsyn
Michael Blunden – Petteri Nokelainen
Josh Gorges – P.K. Subban
Alexei Emelin – Raphael Diaz
Tomas Kaberle – Chris Campoli
Martin St. Louis – Steven Stamkos – Steve Downie
Dominic Moore (Ryan Malone) – Vincent Lecavalier – Brett Connolly
Tom Pyatt – Nate Thompson – Teddy Purcell
Pierre-Cedric Labrie - Dana Tyrell
Eric Brewer – Pavel Kubina
Brett Clark – Matt Gilroy
Marc-Andre Bergeron – Bruno Gervais
Brendan Mikkelson (If Malone is out)