NEW YORK – Forward Michael Bournival and defenseman Francis Bouillon appear poised to return to the Montreal Canadiens lineup, based on line rushes during practice on Saturday.
With forward Brandon Prust about to begin serving a two-game suspension for a late hit on New York Rangers center Derek Stepan in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final, Bournival was skating on the Canadiens fourth line with Daniel Briere and Dale Weise.
Bouillon was skating in Nathan Beaulieu's spot on the third defense pairing next to Mike Weaver. Beaulieu played one shift in the third period and overtime of Montreal's 3-2 win in Game 3 on Thursday.
The Rangers lead the best-of-7 series 2-1, with Game 4 slated for Sunday in New York (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
Bournival played Game 1 of the series but was scratched for Games 2 and 3. Bouilllon has not played since Game 2 of the second round against the Boston Bruins on May 3.
"It's never easy," Bouillon said. "I think every athlete is proud to be where we are right now, and you want to be a part of it. But when you don't play you want to be a good teammate, and I think I've done that all season. You have to be patient. It's not always easy, but you have to work hard so that when they call on you you're ready."
Bouillon said he has received no confirmation that he is playing and coach Michel Therrien would not confirm his lineup for Game 4. But Bouillon came off the ice after practice with the regulars while Beaulieu stayed out late to skate with the usual scratches.
If Bouillon does play, it would not be the first time he returns after a long layoff this season. Bouillon went 11 days between games in December and played just once in a stretch of 16 games between Jan. 12 and March 22, which was made longer by the break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
"The good thing for me is I have experience," Bouillon said. "I think when you're young, you're much more nervous when you get back in the lineup. But for me, when I did it this year I was a lot calmer. It took me a couple of shifts and my game came back pretty quickly. Let's hope that if I'm back in it will be the same thing."
Beaulieu was inserted into the Canadiens lineup for Game 6 against the Bruins and earned an assist in Montreal's 4-0 win. He then got another assist two days later in a 3-1 win in Game 7. He was brought into the lineup to add some creativity and offense on the back end, helping the Canadiens second power play unit.
Bouillon is a similar player to Weaver in that he's a defense-first, stay-at-home type. Therrien is more likely to use him late in tight games, something he wasn't willing to do with Beaulieu.
Therrien would not confirm Bournival's status either, but if he does replace Prust it would add a completely different element to the Canadiens lineup; Bournival is one of Montreal's fastest skaters.
"His work ethic is just non-stop," forward Brendan Gallagher said. "He's always moving his feet, he's always trying to wear down opponents. No matter the situation in the game, you know he's going to work his tail off. We're happy to get him back in. His speed is a presence."
Therrien could have chosen to bring veteran Travis Moen back in the lineup for his physical play and penalty killing abilities, but Bournival's speed appears to have won out.
"The Rangers have a fast team. Bringing in a guy with his speed could help our team," Briere said. "This is Michael's style of hockey, a fast style. He could be good for us."
Therrien made a minor adjustment to the forward lines that finished Game 3. In Montreal's overtime win on Thursday, Briere skated between Rene Bourque and Thomas Vanek and scored Montreal's go-ahead goal late in the third period. On Saturday, Lars Eller took Briere's place between Bourque and Vanek.
Here are the projected lineups for Game 4:
Max Pacioretty – David Desharnais – Brendan Gallagher
Alex Galchenyuk – Tomas Plekanec – Brian Gionta
Rene Bourque – Lars Eller – Thomas Vanek
Michael Bournival – Daniel Briere – Dale Weise
Josh Gorges – P.K. Subban
Andrei Markov – Alexei Emelin
Francis Bouillon – Mike Weaver
Injured: Carey Price (knee)
Scratched: Brandon Prust (suspended), Travis Moen, George Parros, Ryan White, Nathan Beaulieu, Jarred Tinordi, Douglas Murray
Chris Kreider - Dominic Moore - Rick Nash
Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Martin St. Louis
Benoit Pouliot - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello
J.T. Miller - Brian Boyle - Derek Dorsett
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
John Moore - Kevin Klein
Injured: Derek Stepan (jaw)
Scratched: Daniel Carcillo (suspended), Jesper Fast, Justin Falk, Raphael Diaz