Steve Begin and Alex Kovalev could both return to the lineup this week.
MONTREAL - With a new player seemingly leaving each game of late, the Canadiens got some good news Sunday afternoon. Ten players were on the ice for the optional practice at the Bell Centre and two of those faces - Alex Kovalev and Steve Begin - were definitely welcome sights.
Kovalev was expected to keep him out for a few weeks and just seeing Begin with skates on was a surprise. Both could return this week, beginning with Kovalev possibly being on the ice Monday night against Toronto.
A sore elbow has kept Kovalev out of the lineup since Feb. 14 and while he was originally expected to miss two to three weeks, the veteran winger was shooting pucks Sunday for the first time since being sidelined.
"As long as it feels comfortable, I'm ready to go," said the 34-year-old, who is clearly anxious to return. "It's not much fun skating by myself for 30-40 minutes. I'd much rather be enjoying myself with the other guys."
Begin's presence on the ice was undoubtedly the most suprising. As recently as last Wednesday, the feisty forward was on crutches with a protective walking brace on his fractured right foot. While Monday and likely Tuesday are ruled out, he could potentially return at the end of the week.
"It went pretty well. Even I was a bit surprised," admitted Begin. "I'm hoping to be back this week. Obviously I want to be back as quickly as possible. Tomorrow I'll skate with my full gear and we'll see how it feels after that."
With three key elements making their way back into the lineup in time for another big week on the schedule, it's highly likely that the Canadiens are feeling pretty good themselves.
Heather Engel is a writer for canadiens.com