MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens look to be welcoming back a big piece of their lineup when they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night, and it's an addition that will likely make many other teams around the League take notice as well.
Forward Travis Moen, an impending free agent who could be moved by the Habs prior to the Feb. 27 trade deadline, will most likely make his return from an upper-body injury that has cost him the past five games.
Moen skated Tuesday morning with a non-contact jersey, but he was supposed to meet with doctors later in the day to get his final clearance. Moen said his status would be a game time decision, but coach Randy Cunneyworth said he was "confident" the big forward will play.
If Moen can't go, Cunneyworth said he may dress just 10 forwards and eight defensemen for the game, but that appears to be a remote possibility.
For the Penguins, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury will get his 26th start in Pittsburgh's last 27 games, a situation he brushed off because "we had the All-Star break, and that gave me some rest."
Coach Dan Bylsma revealed backup Brent Johnson can expect to see more work in February with six sets of back-to-back games on the schedule. He said Johnson will play anywhere between seven and 11 of Pittsburgh's final 28 games after the one in Montreal.
As far as what looks like a mismatch on paper between a Penguins team that has won nine of 11 games and a Canadiens team sitting near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, Bylsma would have none of it.
The last two times these teams have met the Penguins had to erase two-goal deficits to win, once in a shootout and another in overtime.
"The last game, I would say they had success and we had to kind of rescue that game in the end, which we did with a big goal from Geno (Evgeni Malkin)," Bylsma said. "There are aspects of the Canadiens that have always given us problems -- speed forwards, plays around the net. They've always given us problems there, and this is a tough place to play for us."
Defenseman Kristopher Letang will be playing at Bell Centre for the first time since suffering a concussion here on a hit by Montreal's Max Pacioretty that cost him six weeks of action. He says he bears no ill will towards Pacioretty and that his three-game suspension was punishment enough, but mainly Letang feels the disparity in the standings should be forgotten by his Penguins for this game.
"Regardless of their situation, that’s not our problem," Letang said. "Our problem is winning games."
The Penguins held an optional skate Tuesday morning so it would be difficult to guess their lines, particularly with the absence of Tyler Kennedy to a lower-body injury. The one unit that can go to the bank is Evgeni Malkin centering Chris Kunitz and James Neal. Malkin has 12 goals and 4 assists in his last 11 games, while Neal has 6 goals and 7 assists over the same span.
The Canadiens paired Josh Gorges and Hal Gill to face that line the last time they played and the duo was extremely effective until Malkin scored with 2:43 to play to tie the game and send it to overtime. It's a strategy Cunneyworth may want to use again.