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Price to start as the Canadiens look to clinch

A win in regulation time or OT against the Florida Panthers will officially lock up a playoff spot on Thursday night

by Matt Cudzinowski @canadiensmtl /

BROSSARD - In Wednesday's practice notebook, the latest on Al Montoya, talk of clinching a playoff spot intensifies, and the Canadiens' top line gets on track. 

Between the pipes: During his post-practice press conference on Wednesday, head coach Claude Julien provided a status update on goaltender Al Montoya, who suffered a lower-body injury during Tuesday's morning skate that forced him to miss his scheduled start against the Dallas Stars.

"We still consider it to be a minor injury. He's day-to-day," said Julien, who confirmed that Carey Price would get the start against the Florida Panthers on Thursday night at the Bell Centre, as the Canadiens look to officially clinch an Eastern Conference playoff berth with a win in regulation time or OT.

The Canadiens' bench boss went on to address Price's workload with just six regular-season games to go before the postseason officially gets underway.

"Carey won't play every single one of the games left. He'll get the start against the Panthers [on Thursday]. He feels fresh, but we want to give him a chance to get some rest at opportune times," explained Julien.

Video: Claude Julien on the Canadiens' goaltending situation

At 12 p.m. EST, the Canadiens recalled goaltender Charlie Lindgren from the St. John's IceCaps, and assigned Zachary Fucale to their American Hockey League affiliate. 

According to Julien, Montoya's health status going forward will ultimately determine whether or not Lindgren sees game action during his time with the big club.

On the verge: Should the Canadiens lock up a playoff spot on Thursday night, Julien will undoubtedly have some thinking to do with respect to trying to keep his lineup as healthy as possible ahead of first-round play.

That's easier said than done, of course, since players generally aren't fans of watching from the sidelines, even under positive circumstances such as these. His troops, of course, are no exception.

"Players want to play, especially if they feel good about their game. They don't want to sit back. For coaches, depending on the game, they don't want injuries to happen, but then injuries are a part of the game. There's a lot of thought that has to go into it before you make that final decision," explained Julien, who is no stranger to making tough calls this time of year. "I've done it both ways in the past, giving guys some time off the last game. Other times, players have said - "We don't play for another four or five days, so I'd rather play". You have to look at the situation."

Coming alive: The Canadiens' top line was a real offensive force in Tuesday night's 4-1 win over the Stars at the Bell Centre, which certainly had Alexander Radulov feeling good following Wednesday's practice session on the South Shore.

The 30-year-old Russian winger snapped a nine-game goal drought when he capped the scoring with just over two minutes remaining in regulation time. Prior to lighting the lamp behind Stars netminder Kari Lehtonen, Radulov hadn't scored since February 27.

Meanwhile, captain Max Pacioretty snapped a six-game goalless streak of his own with his team-leading 34th goal of the year, before adding the lone helper on Radulov's tally as well. Phillip Danault also chipped in with an assist.

"Our line played a pretty good game. Me, Max and Phil, we all worked together, we all battled and tried to win those battles and tried to create some scoring chances. You feel better when your line starts going. We've just got to continue," said Radulov. "When I got to go on the half-breakaway and get that goal, it was huge for me. My family's in town and I wasn't scoring for a while. It's big, but more importantly, we got that win."

Video: Alexander Radulov on his goal against Dallas

Julien was obviously pleased to see some of his top guns get their offensive mojo back to help the Canadiens rattle off their second straight win and cement their lead atop the Atlantic Division.

"Those guys always put a lot of pressure on themselves when they aren't scoring goals for long periods of time. I told [Max] Pacioretty - "You already have 33 goals. A lot of players would be proud of a season like that." You just have to keep focusing on the work you need to do and the results will come. That's what happened," said Julien, after watching the line click so well versus Dallas.

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