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At the Rink: Blue Jackets at Canadiens

by Sean Farrell

MONTREAL -- Montreal Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin will be back in the lineup against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Bell Centre on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET; FS-O, RDS, SNE).

Emelin has missed seven of the past eight games, including the home-and-home series against the New Jersey Devils on Friday and Saturday.

He had 15:10 of ice time in Montreal's 5-1 win at the New York Rangers on Wednesday after he was sidelined for five games because of a lower-body injury. His return means defenseman Greg Pateryn will be a healthy scratch Tuesday.

Pateryn, who played the seven games Emelin missed, had to wait until Nov. 14 to make his season debut because Canadiens coach Michel Therrien used the same three pairs of defensemen throughout their 13-2-2 start.

"[Pateryn] deserves to play," Therrien said after the morning skate. "He's playing well enough to be there and he did a good job and he's a presence. But in the meantime it shows the depth we've got with our defensemen. I do think Emelin is ready to get back in our lineup. He works extremely hard during practice to make sure that he's got that game shape and physically feels comfortable, and a guy like Pateryn understands the situation."

The rest of Montreal's depth will face a severe test for an extended period that will carry the Canadiens past the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic in Foxborough, Mass., on Jan. 1, and on into the new year.

On Monday, they announced goalie Carey Price will be sidelined for at least six weeks because of a lower-body injury which will not require surgery.

Right wing Brendan Gallagher is out indefinitely after having surgery on two fingers on his left hand that were fractured when he blocked a shot by New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk on Nov. 22. Center Torrey Mitchell and right wing Alexander Semin are sidelined by lower-body injuries, though Semin skated Tuesday.

"There's nothing wrong as a team to face adversity," Therrien said. "I think it builds character and we're going to have an opportunity to show the character of this hockey team. Are we going to miss Carey Price? For sure. There's not one team missing its best player and doesn't miss them. We're going to miss his presence. But as far as regarding the leadership, I think our leader group, since last year they matured a lot. And even this year they've showed a lot of composure. That's part of the process and this is an opportunity for us as a group to show that, yes, we've faced a lot of adversity and we're going to show a lot of character through it."

Goalie Zachary Fucale practiced Tuesday after he was recalled from St. John's of the American Hockey League on Monday when the Canadiens sent backup goalie Dustin Tokarski to the St. John's.

"First of all, Tokarski hasn't played much in the last month," Therrien said. "He needs to play if we're going to use him. It wouldn't be fair to him to throw him out there if he hadn't played for almost a month, so we wanted to make sure that he's going to play. In the meantime, Fucale did a really good job with St. John's. This is a great opportunity for him to be surrounded with NHL players at such a young age. You know, he's only 20 years old. There are not many 20-year-old kids as a goalie capable to play or to be around NHL teams. So I talked to him this morning and he's got to be like a sponge. He's got take all the experience and to be surrounded by NHL players."

Fucale, who will be Mike Condon's backup against Columbus, was selected by Montreal in the second round (No. 36) of the 2013 NHL Draft.

"Yesterday I was pretty happy to hear I was coming to Montreal and I had a smile on pretty much the whole day," Fucale said. "But it's normal and it's just one step forward. So I just want to learn as much as I can while I'm here and just learn something and bring it back to St. John's and work on that."

Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky will return to face Montreal after serving a one-game suspension for his cross-check to the head of Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

"It was obviously hard, not being able to be out there and help the guys," Dubinsky said Tuesday. "I just want to get back to what I was doing. I thought my game against Pittsburgh was good, so I just hope to pick up where I left off and try to be a difference-maker out there and try to be a leader out there."

Coach John Tortorella missed having Dubinsky in the lineup for the Blue Jackets' 3-1 loss at the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.

"He was our best player against Pittsburgh," Tortorella said. "It would have been nice to have him in St. Louis, but we're not the only team that goes through that. He's going to play tonight. I just talked to him before I came out here; he's ready to go. The thing with [Dubinsky], he drags people into the fight. He just drags them in because he's such an emotional guy and such a competitive guy that if you don't come along with him, he's going to grab you and he's going to bring you in it."

Tortorella said he is encouraged with Ryan Johansen's increased offensive production since his top center was held to six points through his first 12 games.

"He has to be a big part of our offense and he's beginning to get there," Tortorella said. "The thing I like about it is I think it's becoming more consistent in the game. [In] St. Louis, I don't think he gets rewarded enough. He was involved in the offense there. There were some chances that he just missed that could have changed the complexion of that game. So he has to lead the way as far as that area of our game in creating those types of opportunities at 5-on-5 and on the power play."

Here are the projected lineups:


Boone Jenner - Ryan Johansen - Nick Foligno

Scott Hartnell - Alexander Wennberg - Brandon Saad

Matt Calvert - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson

Gregory Campbell - William Karlsson - Kerby Rychel

Jack Johnson - David Savard

Ryan Murray - Kevin Connauton

Justin Falk - Andrew Bodnarchuk

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney

Injured: Fedor Tyutin (nose), Cody Goloubef (jaw), Rene Bourque (upper body), David Clarkson (back), Jared Boll (foot), Markus Hannikainen (shoulder)

Scratched: Michael Chaput, Dalton Prout


Max Pacioretty - Tomas Plekanec - Devante Smith-Pelly

Tomas Fleischmann - David Desharnais - Dale Weise

Lars Eller - Alex Galchenyuk - Sven Andrighetto

Paul Byron - Brian Flynn - Christian Thomas

Andrei Markov - P.K. Subban

Nathan Beaulieu - Jeff Petry

Alexei Emelin - Tom Gilbert

Mike Condon

Zachary Fucale

Injured: Brendan Gallagher (hand), Torrey Mitchell (lower body), Carey Price (lower body), Alexander Semin (lower body), Michael Bournival (concussion-like symptoms)

Scratched: Greg Pateryn, Daniel Carr

Status report: Prout will be a healthy scratch for a third straight game and ninth time in the past 13 games. ... Bournival skated again Tuesday, one day after joining his teammates for the first time.

Who's hot: Bobrovsky is 10-5-0 since losing his first six starts. ... Johansen, who has scored in consecutive games, has five goals and five assists in his past 10 games. … Galchenyuk, who was named NHL Third Star of the Week on Monday, has scored five times during a four-game goal streak. He has five goals and two assists during a five-game point streak. ... Plekanec has two goals and 10 assists in his past 11 games. ... Pacioretty, has points in four straight games and 11 points in his past 11 games. ... Eller has assists in three consecutive games.

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