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Working away in Edmonton

The Canadiens could have Alexander Radulov back in the lineup on Sunday to close out a lengthy road trip

by Matt Cudzinowski @canadiensmtl /

EDMONTON - In Saturday's practice notebook, Alexander Radulov could be good to go against Edmonton, slowing down Connor McDavid, and Max Pacioretty on facing a former teammate.

RADU'S RETURN: There's a very good chance the Canadiens could have Alexander Radulov back in their lineup for Sunday evening's tilt in Edmonton against the Oilers. 

The Russian sniper, who has missed the last three games with a lower-body injury, skated on a line with Alex Galchenyuk and Artturi Lehkonen during Saturday afternoon's practice at Rogers Place. 

Following the on-ice session, the 30-year-old forward said that he "felt good" and he remains hopeful that he'll finally get the opportunity to suit up for the first time since March 2. Needless to say, watching from the sidelines hasn't been easy on him.

"It's always long days when you're not playing, especially when I was travelling with the team," said Radulov, who boasts 15 goals and 46 points in 63 games so far this season. "Those days are long, so it seems like forever. But, it was good that it didn't go [on for] more games."

Video: Alexander Radulov on his return to the lineup

Meanwhile, Tomas Plekanec hit the ice on Saturday sporting a "no contact" jersey as he continues to recover from an upper-body injury that has forced him to miss the last two games. His playing status, though, is still uncertain.

For his part, Paul Byron missed practice after coming down with the flu, Brian Flynn didn't skate because of his upper-body injury, and Nikita Nesterov wasn't on the ice after being given a maintenance day.

Byron is the latest member of Claude Julien's contingent to battle the flu virus after Carey Price was kept out of action on Thursday night in Calgary with the same ailment. Price was back at practice on Saturday, and he cofirmed that he was feeling fine.

Given that the flu bug can strike any one of his troops at any time, the Canadiens' bench boss couldn't really confirm his lineup for the final stop on this four-game road trip.

"We never know what's going to happen with guys coming down sick. We're changing line every single day. I'll answer that question [on Sunday]. Byron missed practice for that reason," said Julien. "Those are situations that we can't control, but we have to manage it and that's what I'm trying to do. I'm checking with our training staff every morning and we're managing it day by day and even hour by hour."

CONTROLLING CONNOR: Captain Max Pacioretty didn't mince words when it came to sharing his thoughts on what the Canadiens must do in order to come out on top in Edmonton. In fact, his response really shouldn't come as any surprise. 

"Honestly, the biggest challenge is shutting down probably the best player in the world," stressed Pacioretty, referencing 20-year-old Oilers captain Connor McDavid, who currently leads the League with 75 points in 67 games - including an NHL-best 52 assists. "We really want to focus on him. It's not too often where a player can stand up here and say you want to key in on one guy, but I mean he's just unbelievable. We've got to try and slow him down through the neutral zone. That's the biggest thing. If we're able to limit those rushes where he comes through the neutral zone with speed, it should give us the ability to play a little more in their end."

Like Pacioretty, Julien emphasized the importance of playing an aggressive brand of hockey against the Oilers' No. 97, who has three goals and eight points in his last seven games.

"We have to make sure that we stay on top of him because he has a lot of speed. He beats defensemen. He's a guy who's tough to defend because he skates with so much speed," mentioned Julien. "We'll have to close things down on him before he gets too much speed."

Video: Claude Julien's press conference in Edmonton

HIGH PRAISE FOR DESHARNAIS: The Canadiens will go up against a familiar face in David Desharnais on Sunday evening after the 30-year-old centerman was dealt to the Oilers just ahead of the trade deadline a week-and-a-half ago.

Going up against his good friend will be somewhat of a strange experience, according to Pacioretty. After all, the pair shared a locker room for seven-plus seasons in Montreal before Desharnais packed his bags for Alberta's capital city.

"I saw Davey [on Friday]. I was happy to see him score [against Pittsburgh on Friday night]. I thought he played really well," said Pacioretty. "It'll be really weird [playing against him]. Davey is one of my best friends. I'm happy to see him having success right now, but hopefully not against us." 

The Canadiens' leading goal-scorer is pleased to see Desharnais being given a brand new opportunity to shine, and he firmly believes that he will in Edmonton going forward.

Video: Max Pacioretty on playing against David Desharnais

"He makes it easier on the next guy. He's not going to rifle a pass in your feet when you're open along the wall and you're looking for a change. He puts it in an area where the next play is going to be easier on you. That's something that people don't see," praised Pacioretty. "You don't see that from the stands. You don't see that from TV. You just see it on the ice. That's why players love playing with Davey so much. Now, it's a bit of a fresh start. I want to see him get rewarded."

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