BROSSARD - It remains to be seen if David Schlemko will return to the Canadiens' lineup on Saturday night in Pittsburgh.
While the 30-year-old defenseman has been cleared to play after recovering from an upper-body injury that has sidelined him since early March, head coach Claude Julien will make a decision on Schlemko's status on game day.
After missing the last 12 games, it should come as no surprise that Schlemko is hoping his bench boss will feature him on the blue line at PPG Paints Arena.
"You definitely want to be battling with the guys and on the ice. Hockey's a lot more fun when you're playing games instead of bag skating by yourself," said Schlemko, following Friday's on-ice session at the Bell Sports Complex. "I've been working for weeks now on the ice to get back, so I'm definitely excited and chomping at the bit."
Video: Schlemko on returning to the Canadiens' lineup
It's been a frustrating season for the Edmonton native, to say the least. Back in mid-October, Schlemko went under the knife to remove a bone fragment in his right hand. The injury cost him the first two months of the season, with his Canadiens debut finally coming on November 29.
"You want to come in and play your game and show what you can do, and to have that delayed by two months, it was a tough start, tough to get going when you start like that," admitted Schlemko, who has played in just 34 games so far this season, scoring one goal and registering four points. "I think it's been tough mentally for everyone in here, myself included."
That being said, Schlemko plans on making the most of every opportunity he does get to play between now and the end of the year in order to head in the offseason on a positive note.
"There's been a handful of games where I feel like I've played my game and that's not nearly enough," confided Schlemko. "Hopefully, I can come back these last five games here, make a push and really show what I can do and get some of that self-confidence back as well."
Video: ANA@MTL: Schlemko scores his first as a Canadien
No doubt Julien is eager to see the veteran rearguard play up to his potential as well.
"I don't think we've seen David Schlemko's true colors," mentioned Julien. "He missed a lot of time at the beginning of the year. That's the toughest time to miss because it's always difficult to catch up when you miss the start of the year. Then, he got hurt again. I don't think he's found his rhythm just yet, but I'm convinced that he has better hockey in him than what we've seen."