MONTREAL -- While the Tampa Bay Lightning are learning to adjust to life without Steven Stamkos, the Montreal Canadiens will be welcoming back a key forward when the two teams face each other at Bell Centre on Tuesday.
Daniel Briere will return to the lineup after missing 10 games recovering from a concussion, and he will be doing so at his natural position of center for the first time this season.
Briere will center a line with rookie Michael Bournival and Rene Bourque, taking the spot of David Desharnais, who will be a healthy scratch for the second time in a week.
"It's never easy to be out of the lineup," Briere said Tuesday. "You kind of feel like you are letting down your teammates, especially when things aren't going well. We had a bit of a bad streak where we lost four games in a row, and you feel a bit like it's your fault because you're out."
The Canadiens snapped that four-game losing streak (0-3-1) with a 4-2 win Sunday against the New York Islanders, but Desharnais had another difficult game. One shift early in the third period showed the extent to which Desharnais was struggling.
Cutting to the net on a 2-on-1 break, Bournival gave Desharnais a pass with an open net in front of him, but Desharnais appeared to not expect the pass and it went through his legs. The puck went back the other way and the Islanders hemmed the Canadiens in their zone, with Desharnais failing to clear the puck when he had an opportunity.
Then, as he was about to go for a change to end the shift, Desharnais didn't get the puck deep enough in the Islanders zone and was forced to stay on the ice, taking a hooking penalty shortly thereafter. Brock Nelson scored on the ensuing power play to cut Montreal's lead to 3-2, tightening the game with nearly 16 minutes to play.
With Briere taking that spot, the pressure may not be so great to produce right away as he works himself back into game shape.
"Physically I think I'll be fine," he said. "It's the timing in game situations that I'll need to find as soon as possible.
"But I feel comfortable playing at center, I played there for the majority of my career, so it's a bit easier for me. I'll just need to react more than anything else."
The Canadiens shared the feelings of fans and players from around the NHL when they heard of Stamkos' injury Monday, breaking his tibia in a collision with a goal post during a 3-0 loss to the Boston Bruins.
"It's a big loss for them," coach Michel Therrien said. "When we talk about Stamkos, we're talking about one of the NHL's elite players. We don't have too many like him. But the Lightning are still a good team who are playing some good hockey.
"You never want to see a star player who is out long term. He's the type of player that's an attraction for the NHL. I don't know how long he'll be out, but the NHL needs its stars."
Therrien knows better than most what kind of an effect the loss of a player like Stamkos can have on a team, and he's warned the Canadiens about the danger of taking the Lightning too lightly.
"I've been through it in the past, and it represents an opportunity for other players to have new roles and to get more ice time," Therrien said. "I lost Sidney Crosby for a long period of time when I was in Pittsburgh and we continued having success.
"As a coach, that's why I'm very conscious of the fact we are facing a very good team. We will need to be on our toes and play a good game if we want to have a chance to win."
The Lightning gave no indications as to what their lineup will look like Tuesday with Stamkos and defensemen Sami Salo and Keith Aullie, who were also hurt in Boston on Monday, all injured and unavailable. The Lightning called up right wing J.T. Brown and defenseman Dimitry Korobov from Syracuse of the American Hockey League, and it's assumed either Alex Killorn or Brett Connolly may be moved to center to compensate for the absence of Stamkos.
Ben Bishop will get the start in goal for Tampa and he will face Montreal's Carey Price.
Here are Montreal’s and Tampa Bay’s likely lineups for the game, with the Lightning lines reported by Damian Cristodero of the Tampa Bay Times:
Alex Killorn – Brett Connolly – Martin St. Louis
Teddy Purcell – Valtteri Filppula – J.T. Brown
Ondrej Palat – Tyler Johnson – Richard Panik
Ryan Malone – Nate Thompson – B.J. Crombeen
Victor Hedman – Andrej Sustr
Matt Carle – Radko Gudas
Mark Barberio – Eric Brewer
Scratched: Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Dimitry Korobov
Injured: Steven Stamkos (leg), Sami Salo (lower body), Keith Aulie (upper body)
Alex Galchenyuk – Lars Eller – Brendan Gallagher
Max Pacioretty – Tomas Plekanec – Brian Gionta
Rene Bourque – Daniel Briere – Michael Bournival
Travis Moen – Gabriel Dumont – Ryan White
Andrei Markov – P.K. Subban
Josh Gorges – Raphael Diaz
Douglas Murray – Francis Bouillon
Scratched : David Desharnais, Greg Pateryn
Injured: Alexei Emelin (knee), Brandon Prust (shoulder), Davis Drewiske (shoulder)