BROSSARD - After missing the last four games with an upper-body injury, a refreshed Dale Weise is ready to make his return to the lineup; all he needs is the doctors’ green light.
The Canadiens picturesque 5-1 victory over the rival Boston Bruins in the 2016 Winter Classic was nearly perfect, albeit with the exception of losing the 2014-15 Jacques Beauchamp-Molson ‘unsung hero’ Trophy winner to injury.
The loss has certainly hurt the Canadiens – who have gone 1-3-0 in Weise’s absence – but on a positive note, coach Michel Therrien announced that Weise could make his return to the lineup as soon as Saturday night against the Blues.
“I feel great but we’ll have to wait for tomorrow morning. The doctors have to look at some stuff and make sure that I am medically cleared. But I feel really good,” commented Weise, who had yet to miss a single match through the first 40 games this season. “The doctors need to tell me that I’m ready to go. They have the final say. I feel great though, better than ever.”
During his two week rehabilitation process, the six-year NHL veteran had the opportunity to take a step back and watch his teammates battle through adversity. Whereas the players in the dressing room might be frustrated with just two wins in their last six games, Weise has been able to find the positives in the Habs’ tough stretch.
“I actually liked our last game. I liked the way we played last night, I thought we played great. I thought during the second and third periods that the ice was tilted in our favor. Against a team like that, one of the hottest clubs in the league, you have to find ways to be positive and feel good about yourself,” encouraged Weise, who scored his career high eleventh goal of the season before the season reached its midway point. “In situations like this, watching from the outside, I have to say that I really liked our effort yesterday. I thought we had some guys that really stepped up and I thought we had good depth from everybody. I am feeling good about our game right now.”
Weise’s return to the lineup could be a much needed boost for the Canadiens, who have only managed to light the lamp eight times in their last five games.
“Watching from the outside the last couple of games I could tell that our guys are squeezing their sticks so hard just trying to get to the front of the net. When you get to the net, the defensemen in the NHL are so good at tying up your stick that you have to try to find the open areas around the net,” noted the Manitoba native, who watched his teammates pepper Blackhawks netminder Corey Crawford with 40 shots in Thursday night’s 2-1 loss to the defending Stanley Cup Champions. “When you watch from the game from above, everything seems like it is moving extremely slow and everything looks easier to pick apart. I see from the media perspective how you guys see the game, but it’s important to remember that out there on the ice everything happens so fast.”
The return of the veteran forward – who ranked second on the team with 11 goals at the time of his injury – would add another offensive weapon to coach Therrien’s arsenal. "Things are going very well with Weise’s rehab so far and we will not hide the fact that I would like to have him back for Saturday’s game," admitted coach Therrien, who is expected to give an update on Weise’s availability for Saturday night’s contest against the Blues. “Dale Weise has been having a very good season.”
Moreover, Weise’s upcoming return to the lineup could not have come at a better time, as the playoff race in the Eastern Conference standings tightens.
“We have to have some urgency. If you look at our division, there are six teams that are right in the mix. The positive is that we are going to get out of this tailspin and start stringing some wins together. From there we will continue to climb,” explained the 27-year-old, who was originally expected to miss two-three weeks of action after suffering the upper-body injury. “When the team is struggling, obviously I am not happy seeing us lose games, it’s extremely frustrating, but not being under the microscope is huge mentally this time of year,” concluded Weise.
“I feel mentally refreshed, I feel good and I’m ready to get back in the lineup.”
Jared Ostroff is a writer for canadiens.com
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