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Expected return

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

BROSSARD – The Canadiens may be able to count on a fresh face in the lineup when the team returns to action on Wednesday in Columbus.

Sidelined since suffering a concussion against the Devils on January 2, Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau was back on the ice in Brossard for a third consecutive practice on Tuesday, skating alongside new linemates Brandon Prust and Alex Galchenyuk.

Stopping just short of confirming Parenteau’s imminent return, head coach Michel Therrien hinted that the 31-year-old winger should dress opposite the Blue Jackets, barring any complications during Wednesday’s morning skate.

Although he hasn’t received the green light just yet, Parenteau is already eager to start kicking the tires on his newest trio.

“I think we all bring something to the line. I like playing with Prust because he brings a lot to the table,” praised the Hull, QC native. “He’s a hard worker who’s been playing good hockey recently and I think that’s something both Chucky and I can benefit from.”

Heading back on the road following a two-game homestand in which they picked up just a single point, the Canadiens will be hoping to benefit from Parenteau’s expertise in Ohio.

“We’ve played well on the road recently so we’re excited to get back out there,” acknowledged the Habs’ offseason acquisition, who has registered six points in six career games against the Blue Jackets. “I don’t think we played poorly at home over the last two games, but we certainly could have played better. Based on our previous road trip, we should expect to play some good hockey in Columbus and in Ottawa.”

Another area in which there is room for improvement is on special teams, which have accounted for just one goal over the past seven games.

After enjoying a bird’s eye view of the power play from the press gallery of late, Parenteau has landed a new role on the team’s first wave at practice alongside P.K. Subban, David Desharnais, Max Pacioretty, and Brendan Gallagher, and could have the opportunity to pitch in firsthand with the man advantage.

“We’re going to need the power play at some point, whether it’s in the second half or in the playoffs. Good teams make use of the power play and score goals on the power play,” admitted the veteran winger. “With the personnel we have on special teams, there’s no reason for us to not score goals, and I think the second half will be a lot better for our team.”

If the power play is a highway to long term success, Therrien insists there’s more to capitalizing than just printing up a map and rolling along on cruise control.

“We always prepare plays for the guys to execute, but it’s also important for them to read the game on the ice. If I’m driving from Montreal to Quebec City. I have two choices – highway 20 or highway 40 – but if I hear on the radio that there’s a big accident in Drummondville, I won’t take the 20. I’ll take the 40,” cracked the Habs' bench boss. “There are two ways to get there, and it’s the same thing for hockey. You’ve got different options, but you need to read the play.”

Set to embark on the second half of the 2014-15 campaign beginning Wednesday night, a newly-clicking power play could turn out to be just the latest weapon in an already loaded Canadiens arsenal.

“Obviously we’d like our power play to work a little better, but we’re still doing really well this year despite that,” argued Parenteau, who sits tied for first on the team in special teams goals. “I think Carey Price is a big part of that, and I think our defensive play overall has also been really good. Those are things that we can be proud of right now, but if we can get our power play going in the second half, then we’ll become an even more dangerous team.”

Bolstering the team’s stingy defensive corps could be Mike Weaver, who practiced alongside Tom Gilbert on Tuesday following a 12-game absence.

“I’m just playing it day by day. Obviously the pairings were a bit different today, but you can’t predict what they’ll be like on game day,” offered the 36-year-old defenseman, who suffered a concussion on December 6 in Dallas. “I’m just happy to be out there and I’m ready to go whenever.”

While it’s never easy to be away from the ice, watching the way his team performed in his absence has made the wait slightly more palatable for the 13-year NHL vet.

“It was a little frustrating, but most of all I was happy to be winning,” added Weaver, who leads the team in average shorthanded minutes per game. “It’s great to be part of a winning team and the atmosphere around here has been awesome. Everybody’s enjoying it, so even if you’re not playing, you just keep practicing hard while you wait to get back.”

Steven Nechay is a writer for canadiens.com

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