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Game Day: Blackhawks @ Canadiens

Tomas Plekanec returns to the lineup to face Chicago on Tuesday

by Steven Nechay @CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com

BROSSARD -- The Canadiens practiced at the Bell Sports Complex on Tuesday morning, in preparation for an Original Six matchup against the visiting Chicago Blackhawks.

Injured Habs Brian Flynn and Nikita Nesterov were the only players absent from the morning skate, while Tomas Plekanec -- who had previously been nursing an upper body injury -- was back centering a line with Paul Byron and Brendan Gallagher.

Julien confirmed that Plekanec will get his first game action since March 4 against the Hawks, while Michael McCarron will sit out as a healthy scratch in his place.

The Habs bench boss also hinted that Brandon Davidson could replace Nathan Beaulieu on the blue line opposite Chicago.

"We have healthy defensemen right now, so if you look at our group, it's not great to have guys sitting for weeks at a time," explained the 56-year-old. "We want to keep our defensemen as active as we can. We rotate our guys so that if ever there's an injury, everyone is ready to go."

Video: Claude Julien on Tuesday's lineup changes

TRENDING UPWARDS

- The Canadiens return home on Tuesday following a four-game road trip in which the team picked up six of a possible eight points to maintain a two-point lead in the Atlantic Division standings.

Montreal has now won four of its last five, and has come from behind twice over that span to lead the NHL in wins after trailing two periods.

"I like our composure, especially when things aren't going perfectly, we're still able to stay in games and eventually win. It hasn't been perfect, but we feel like we're trending in the right direction," stressed Max Pacioretty, who scored two goals in the third period to the propel the Habs past the Oilers in a comeback win on Sunday. "The results are what matter, but we still have a couple of areas to improve on. Overall though, we like our game."

One area for improvement is the Habs power play, a unit which sits ranked 12th league-wide with a 20.3% efficiency.

"We have to be more dangerous, and make teams worry about taking penalties against us," underlined the Habs captain, who notably practiced special teams drills with Byron on Tuesday. "We have to find answers on the power play."

Video: Max Pacioretty on facing a tough Chicago team

FRIENDLY FOES

- A pair of ex-Blackhawks will face their former team on Tuesday, when Chicago visits the Bell Centre for the first time this season.

"They're the team that drafted me, so it's always special to face them -- but I imagine it's even more special for [ Andrew Shaw ]," admitted Phillip Danault, who will face the Blackhawks for a second time since being traded to the Canadiens just over a year ago. "Montreal is all that matters to me now. It's been 12 days since we were in front of our fans, so it's going to feel good to be home."

Like Danault, Shaw -- a fellow 2011 Hawks draft pick -- will face his former club for the first time in Montreal after making his United Center return in November.

But despite spending five seasons in the Windy City, the 25-year-old is more concerned with what's at stake on Tuesday than reminiscing about the past.

"They want to catch Minnesota in the standings, so they're going to be a good team, and we're battling for first with Ottawa, so you know it's a big game for us," described the two-time Stanley Cup winner with Chicago. " We've got to go out there and compete, and work hard. We've got to outwork them tonight."

Video: Andrew Shaw on getting set to face his former team

- Carey Price will play his 500th career game on Tuesday, and holds a 3-3-0 record all-time against the Blackhawks.

- Game time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., and will be broadcast on Sportsnet and RDS.

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