BROSSARD - The Canadiens will welcome a pair of key soldiers back to the lineup on Wednesday night in Quebec City.
After being forced to miss the previous encounter against the Maple Leafs with an upper-body injury, Jonathan Drouin will suit up between captain Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher as Claude Julien's troops look to pick up their first victory of the preseason at the Videotron Centre.
"I feel better today than I did earlier in the week. I'm ready to play," said Drouin, following the morning skate on the South Shore. "It wasn't anything serious. Like Claude said, it was something muscle-related that was bothering me a bit."
Video: Jonathan Drouin on returning to the lineup
It will mark Drouin's second preseason outing and his first since picking up an assist in a 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on September 20th at the Bell Centre.
The 22-year-old sniper is hoping to see as much game action as possible before the regular season begins next Thursday night in Buffalo.
"I'm hoping to play all of the games," mentioned Drouin, who would also like to get the call against Florida and Ottawa on Friday and Saturday night, respectively, in Montreal. "I really want to get used to my linemates and the way the systems work. I think it's important to go into the year that way and understand as much as possible."
Likewise, Andrew Shaw also makes his return after dealing with a neck injury that has kept him out of action since the preseason opener in the provincial capital against Boston.
"I'm ready to go. It sucks sitting back, obviously, but we wanted to make sure that I'm healthy. I'm hungry to get going," said Shaw, who was featured on a line with Alex Galchenyuk and Michael McCarron on Wednesday morning. "Last year, I had some neck problems, and then in the summer I got worked on. I kind of landed awkwardly on it there at the end of the game [in Quebec City on September 18th]. It just kind of tightened up, locked up. I did rehab to loosen it up. I'm excited to be 100 percent and ready to go."
Video: Andrew Shaw on his return in Quebec City
Drouin, Shaw and company certainly aren't going up against the same Maple Leafs squad that downed them 5-1 on Monday night at Ricoh Coliseum. Mike Babcock isn't featuring the likes of Auston Matthews, Patrick Marleau, James van Riemsdyk or Mitch Marner. Nevertheless, the consensus inside the Canadiens' locker room is that their Original Six counterparts are still going to offer up some stiff competition.
"We've got to expect that these players in the lineup are going to want to prove a point and show that they're capable of playing in the NHL," explained Shaw. "They're going to be hungry, they're going to play hard and they'll be on the forecheck going to the net and doing all the little things right. We've got to make sure we're doing the same thing."
That's especially true given that the Canadiens have dropped five straight games to begin their preseason calendar, which isn't at all good for morale.
"I want us to start on a good streak and feel good as a team. Being 0-5 isn't our goal," insisted Drouin. "We don't feel good about it. We have to start to win."
Shaw echoed that sense of urgency as well.
"No one wants to play that many preseason games, but thank god we are because obviously we need to work on some things and it's what we've focused on," said the six-year NHL veteran. "We've got to make sure that we're better and get a win."
McCarron is hoping to play an important part in helping the Canadiens put a number in the win column in his fourth preseason appearance.
The 22-year-old forward emphasized the importance of being a difference-maker on Wednesday night as he continues to fight for a roster spot.
"It's a huge opportunity for me. I haven't been my best throughout this camp so far. I want to try and bring out my best with these guys. It's a great opportunity for me. I want to try and seize it and play the way I know I could play," stressed McCarron, who has one assist in his three previous preseason outings. "It's a little bit frustrating, just trying to find my game here. Tonight, I'm playing with two really good NHL players. I want to capture this opportunity and run with it."
Video: Michael McCarron on seizing the opportunity to play
Following a standout effort at Ricoh Coliseum, youngster Victor Mete will get another shot at patrolling the blue line with Shea Weber on Wednesday night, while Eric Gelinas' professional tryout continues alongside Brandon Davidson.