BROSSARD - Two key forwards weren't aboard the Canadiens' charter flight to Columbus.
Following Monday's practice at the Bell Sports Complex, head coach Claude Julien confirmed that both Jonathan Drouin and Paul Byron would undergo surgery to repair their respective injuries.
The veteran bench boss indicated that Drouin was scheduled to undergo wrist surgery on Monday, while Byron was slated for knee surgery on Tuesday.
He didn't have any information, however, regarding a timetable for their recovery and eventual return.
"We didn't get good news," responded Julien, when questioned about the health status of both forwards who were sidelined for this past Saturday night's game against the New Jersey Devils at the Bell Centre. "We'll know more about duration after surgery. You find out things once you're in there, so we're hoping for the best news possible. We hope that in the next day or two we'll be able to give you guys a timeline."
Video: Claude Julien's press conference
It goes without saying that Drouin and Byron's teammates were disappointed to learn that they could be without their services for a while.
Drouin was off to a strong start this season with seven goals and 15 points in 19 games, while Byron had one goal and four points on the year.
According to Max Domi, though, this edition of the Canadiens is perfectly capable of handling this kind of adversity.
"It's a tough pill to swallow, but other guys have to step up. There's no doubt in my mind. We all know we have the character in here for guys to step up," insisted Domi. "When someone goes down, it's an opportunity for someone else. With the depth we have, it's an opportunity for some guys to prove some stuff here. It's not great, but it's not the end of the world."
Opportunity certainly knocks for forward Charles Hudon, who was recalled from the AHL's Laval Rocket twice over the weekend.
After scoring a team-leading nine goals with Joel Bouchard's contingent, Hudon wants to keep that same mojo going with Montreal.
"My mentality right now is to have fun and enjoy my time here and do the same things I was doing in Laval," said Hudon, who logged 7:55 of ice time versus New Jersey. "I discovered the fun side of hockey again this year. It did me some good to play with the Rocket. I'm holding the stick a little less tightly. I'm more comfortable. I feel good and I'm motivated to play."
Youngster Nick Suzuki is also chomping at the bit to continue shwcasing his offensive prowess and be a real contributor in Drouin and Byron's absence.
Centering a line flanked by Domi on his left and Joel Armia on his right, the 20-year-old London, ON native believes the trio can deliver the goods.
"The coach has trust in me. I want to make the most of that opportunity there," mentioned Suzuki, of his being positioned up the middle in between veterans. "I knew I could come into the League and hopefully produce. I'm just trying to make the most of the opportunity, playing with two great players on the same line. It's a lot of fun. As a line, I feel confident we can play against anyone."
Suzuki is heading into Tuesday night's game against the Blue Jackets riding a season-high three-game point streak (2G, 1A), so he has every reason to feel good about his game right now.
As does Julien, of course.
"We have a lot of confidence in him. He's progressing," praised Julien. "We're giving him the chance to play against bigger lines."
The recent play of fellow young gun Cale Fleury was also a topic of conversation before the Habs departed for Ohio.
Set to celebrate his 21st birthday on Tuesday, Fleury is still relishing the thrill of scoring his first career NHL goal against the Devils.
"I'm glad I didn't have to wait too long for that one," joked Fleury, who accomplished the feat in his 15th career outing. "It definitely started to get in the back of my mind that I didn't want to have a drought like [Victor] Mete did there."
Video: Cale Fleury on playing with confidence
Lighting the lamp aside, though, Fleury has made 12 consecutive starts on the back end. And like Suzuki, he is feeling more and more sure of himself.
"As every game goes on, I feel more confident out there," said Fleury. "I'm just trying to make plays that I've been making my whole life. Hopefully I'll get a little more confident in the offensive zone, but for now I'm just trying to focus on making a solid first pass and being as good defensively as I can."
That suits Julien just fine.
"He has a lot of tools that are attractive for us. We have to continue to develop him," said Julien. "He wasn't prepared to play here last season, but playing in Laval benefitted him. He had a good training camp and he caught our attention even more than we thought it would, honestly, and we've been rewarded with a player who has a lot of potential."