BROSSARD - There was a big surprise at practice at the Bell Sports Complex on Monday. Six-feet-four, 230 pounds big, to be exact.
After learning last week that Shea Weber would need to miss four to six weeks with an ankle sprain, the captain was back on the ice with his teammates, regular line rushes and all.
Well, that's a welcome change of situation.
"The swelling has gone down. The doctors have given a diagnosis of more like four weeks and he's way ahead," explained Julien of Weber, who suffered the injury to his ankle on February 4 in New Jersey. "The swelling is down, he's feeling good. They don't see any reason for him not to play if he's capable of it, and he's comfortable."
Weber's comfort level with the injury is exactly what's behind the accelerated return to practice, regardless of the estimated recovery period, and it shouldn't come as a shock to anyone who knows the veteran leader and the lengths to which he'd go to help his team any way he can.
"I shouldn't say I don't listen to timelines, but my goal is to get back as soon as possible. When I feel like I can help the team, then I'll come back," declared Weber, who has 13 goals for 34 points in 55 games this season. "At this point, I feel good enough to help out and just keep going that way. Obviously, there are timelines put in but you have to talk to the doctors about that one, because I feel good."
Needless to say, Weber's coach was in awe of the seven-time All-Star's quick turnaround and willingness to tough things out in the name of the team.
"I think his improvement has been unbelievable and at the same time, the swelling has gone down. I'm not going to tell you he doesn't feel any pain. But he's a pretty special athlete; he plays through a lot," shared Julien. "Medically, they don't seem to think that if he's capable of handling that, there should be no issues of him playing."
Video: Claude Julien's press conference
Monday's news about Weber marks an enormous shift from the week before, when reports had emerged online suggesting a much more dire prognosis for the 15-year veteran.
Weber said he found out about those reports when his phone started blowing up and described hearing about them as "weird" given that he hadn't yet gotten any information directly from the right source - namely, his doctors - about the extent of his injury. Once he did, however, he was pleased to have a path mapped out for his recovery.
"I wouldn't say it's a relief, but you want to know what's going on and try and figure out as much as you can," outlined Weber, who said he'd been skating on his own the previous two days. "It's still tough... there's a lot to it. There's obviously functionality and pain levels and pain tolerance. And right now, it's in a good spot. So I'm just taking it day by day."
Video: Shea Weber on his return to practice
Seeing the captain back on the ice was surely a welcome boost for a club that was left reeling after its fourth straight loss on Saturday night, but one whose players have not yet thrown in the towel on a run at the postseason.
"We're here to work, regardless of our situation," affirmed Carey Price after Monday's practice. "It's good to see guys rallying together, for sure."
Video: Carey Price on the belief in the room
Julien wouldn't commit to Weber returning to the lineup for Tuesday night's game in Detroit, but didn't rule him out. Ditto Paul Byron, who the coach said is just waiting for final clearance.
Brendan Gallagher took a therapy day on Monday, however. He traveled with the team to Michigan but Julien said that he was day-to-day and questionable to face the Red Wings.
Jonathan Drouin, meanwhile, did skate on Monday and the coach said he seemed like he would be in shape to return after missing Saturday's game against Dallas with a lower-body injury.
The Canadiens face the Detroit Red Wings at 7:30 p.m. at Little Caesars Arena on Tuesday.