OTTAWA – The Montreal Canadiens got a surprise visit before traveling to Ottawa for Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Senators (7 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS, NBCSN) on Sunday night.
Injured center Lars Eller went to the Canadiens suburban practice facility before the team got on the bus for the short ride to Ottawa, and coach Michel Therrien said it did everyone some good to see him.
"It was just nice to see him," Therrien said. "You can tell our guys care about him, he's such a good kid. It's nice that we know, first of all, that he's out of the hospital, and it was nice to see that he was capable to come to the rink."
Eller is recovering from a concussion and facial fractures from a hit he took in Game 1 from Senators defenseman Eric Gryba, who will serve the final game of his two-game suspension levied by the NHL for the hit by sitting out Game 3.
"He looks good," Therrien said, before catching himself. "Well, he did look better before."
Eller remains out indefinitely, but captain Brian Gionta was on the ice at the Canadiens morning skate Sunday and Therrien called him a game-time decision. Gionta looked comfortable and took part in all drills, shooting and passing the puck.
Analyst Kevin Weekes reported on Hockey Night in Canada that there was a "good chance" Gionta's upper-body injury that kept him out of Game 2 could knock him out for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and that it would require surgery.
Therrien said Max Pacioretty is also a game-time decision, even though he did not take part in Sunday's skate.
There was some concern about Rene Bourque's status for the game after he collided with teammate Colby Armstrong in Game 2 and looked shaken up getting back to the bench, but Therrien said he is ready to play.
That's good news for the Canadiens as Bourque has had a major impact on the series with his physical play.
"He's playing a lot harder," Canadiens forward Ryan White said. "He's playing big, physical hockey. He's got to be scary to play against when he's playing like that."
Here is a projection of the Canadiens lines, assuming that Gionta will play and Pacioretty will not.
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