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At the Rink: Islanders at Canadiens

by Sean Farrell / NHL.com

MONTREAL -- New York Islanders captain John Tavares will be back in the lineup against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Thursday.

Tavares missed three games because of an illness but still leads the Islanders in scoring with five goals, six assists and 11 points in 10 games.

"I weighed myself [Wednesday] and I was about three pounds light still," Tavares said after New York held an optional skate. "I certainly had a little extra dessert [Wednesday] night. Feeling good and excited to get back at it."

Tavares said he started to feel sick when he got to the rink Saturday.

"I just didn't sleep very well," Tavares said. "Sunday I got up and it was more of the same, it was kind of off and on, and then Sunday night was kind of the worst of it. It was the peak of it. I had a tough night, but it was kind of the end of it and it was getting over that final hump. We changed some of my medication on Sunday, which I think helped as well, and then Monday morning I really started to feel better. I finally got my appetite back and wanting to get out of bed and move around a little bit."

The Islanders were 1-1-1 with Tavares out of the lineup, and coach Jack Capuano was impressed with how they battled during his absence.

"Anytime you have a guy out of your lineup that's an integral part of your team, that's a leader, you're going to rally around that," Capuano said. "I think that's what you do, number one. Number two, it's a good measuring stick to see how your team plays without your best player in your lineup. They're doing pretty well over there, and I thought we did pretty well without Johnny."

Tavares is expecting New York will face a tough test against Montreal, which is 5-0-1 at home.

"They don't give you a whole lot, which can lead you to try and do too much and to make mistakes," Tavares said. "They have a lot of skill, a lot of talent, and they're playing such a good structure within their team, all four lines can hurt you and can make you pay for it. So I think it's playing a smart game, playing a disciplined game. We have to be able to skate and compete and try to make them play in their own end."

Despite a 2-1 overtime loss Tuesday, Canadiens coach Michel Therrien is not tinkering with his lineup. Rookie goalie Mike Condon will make his fourth start in a row with Carey Price sidelined for a week because of a lower-body injury.

"He kind of looks a lot like Carey Price in there," Montreal left wing Paul Byron said. "If you take off the '9' and put in a '1' and you probably wouldn't even tell the difference the last few games."

Condon, who wears No. 39, is 4-0-1 with a 1.64 goals-against-average and .941 save percentage through his first five NHL games.

"He's been huge for us, just the composure he's had stepping in," Montreal right wing Brendan Gallagher said. "It's pretty special to watch right now. He's making the big saves, and timely saves, saves at the times in the game where we really need him to step up and he's done that for us. So obviously when guys go down, it's an old cliché in hockey, it's just an opportunity for guys to step up and I think he's really taken advantage of it. He's played really well for us."

Here are the projected lineups:

ISLANDERS

Anders Lee - John Tavares - Ryan Strome

Nikolay Kulemin - Mikhail Grabovski - Brock Nelson

Josh Bailey - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo

Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck

Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk

Calvin de Haan - Travis Hamonic

Brian Strait - Marek Zidlicky

Jaroslav Halak

Jean-Francois Berube

Injured: Eric Boulton (lower body), Thomas Hickey (lower body)

Scratched: Taylor Beck, Thomas Greiss, Steve Bernier

CANADIENS

Max Pacioretty - Tomas Plekanec - Brendan Gallagher

Lars Eller - Alex Galchenyuk - Devante Smith-Pelly

Tomas Fleischmann - David Desharnais - Dale Weise

Paul Byron - Torrey Mitchell - Brian Flynn

Andrei Markov - P.K. Subban

Alexei Emelin - Jeff Petry

Nathan Beaulieu - Tom Gilbert

Mike Condon

Dustin Tokarski

Injured: Carey Price (lower body)

Scratched: Jarred Tinordi, Alexander Semin

Status report: Capuano will keep an eye on how much ice time Tavares gets. "We'll watch and see how he feels during the game," Capuano said. "When you have the flu bug it takes a little bit of a toll on your body. We've got four good lines, we utilize them, so we'll just monitor the minutes as we go along." With Tavares back in the lineup, Bernier will be a healthy scratch after playing the past four games. Bernier has no points in five games. Semin will sit out his fifth consecutive game. Tinordi has yet to play.

Who's hot: Halak is 2-0-1 and has allowed three goals in his past three starts. … Weise has four goals and one assist during a three-game point streak. … Markov has assists in consecutive games and leads the Canadiens with 12 assists and 13 points.

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