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Round 1

Alexei Emelin likely to return for Canadiens in Game 5

Defenseman has missed first four games of series against Rangers with lower-body injury

by Arpon Basu @ArponBasu / Senior Managing Editor

BROSSARD, Quebec -- Montreal Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin likely will play in his first game of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the New York Rangers at Bell Centre on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; USA, CBC, TVA Sports, MSG).

The best-of-7 series is tied 2-2.

Canadiens coach Claude Julien said after the morning skate Emelin's status will be determined after warmups, but every indication was he would be in the lineup for the first time since April 5, when he sustained a lower-body injury in a game against the Buffalo Sabres.

"I feel good and I'm ready," Emelin said. "Just [a] game-time decision."

Emelin was playing on the right side with Nathan Beaulieu on the third defense pair at the morning skate, leaving intact Montreal's top two pairs of Andrei Markov with Shea Weber and Jordie Benn with Jeff Petry.

Defenseman Brandon Davidson, who would be replaced by Emelin, remained on the ice after the morning skate with forwards Michael McCarron and Andreas Martinsen, neither of whom is expected to play.

Julien saw a lot of Emelin in the playoffs when he was coaching the Boston Bruins and said he is eager to add Emelin's abrasive style to the lineup.

"He's a rugged defenseman who plays hard," Julien said. "He's a defenseman that you don't like playing against, and that's the part I think we missed with him not being in our lineup. … I think our team has done a good job, but definitely when he goes in there, I know that coaching against him, our players kept their heads up when he was on the ice."

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