BROSSARD, Quebec -- Montreal Canadiens center Alex Galchenyuk will return against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday after missing three games with a right knee injury, giving the Canadiens as healthy a lineup as they've had in nearly two months.
Defenseman Jeff Petry, who missed a 5-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday because of illness, is also expected to be back. This comes one day after defenseman Andrei Markov returned after a 19-game absence because of a groin injury and forward David Desharnais came back after missing 24 games with a knee injury.
The only player injured is forward Brendan Gallagher, who is expected to return sometime around the beginning of March from a hand injury.
Despite those absences, Montreal (30-14-7) held a nine-point lead in the Atlantic Division over the Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins heading into play Wednesday.
"The last two months were pretty rough health-wise, and we were still capable of maintaining our quality of play compared to, I would say, last year," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "So that's good news for us. Obviously it's a big boost to get some of our players back, and we saw an example [Tuesday] even if we were still missing three really important players in Petry, [Galchenyuk] and Gallagher. Those are three pieces of that puzzle that are crucial for us, but we got some guys back and you felt the energy. Those guys, when they're back, it gives the team confidence."
Video: MTL@DET: Galchenyuk nets Radulov's feed for OT winner
Galchenyuk will center a line with Desharnais and Andrew Shaw on his wings against the Flyers on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; CSN-PH, SNE, RDS, NHL.TV).
"I think we're all different players," Galchenyuk said. "[Desharnais] is a playmaker, I can make plays but I'm more of a shooter and [Shaw] you always need guys like that on your line, works hard, competes, does the little things right. I'm excited to see what we're going to bring [Thursday]."
The decision to use Galchenyuk on what amounts to Montreal's second line attests to the play of Phillip Danault on the first line with Max Pacioretty and Alexander Radulov. Danault, who began the season the on the fourth line, is easily the biggest beneficiary of the Canadiens' injury problems.
Therrien evoked the Pittsburgh Penguins and their ability to play someone like Phil Kessel on the third line when explaining the luxury of being able to play Galchenyuk on the second line.
"We're looking for balance on every line, and you can't have a better example than the Stanley Cup winner; they've got Kessel on the third line," Therrien said. "They're really well-balanced and they're tough to play against, honestly, because of their balance. I wish I was able to do that. I think we're more a threat when we balance our lines instead of putting all those guys together."
Video: OTT@MTL: Galchenyuk buries a slap shot for PPG
The Canadiens placed defenseman Mark Barberio on waivers and sent forward Daniel Carr to St. John's of the American Hockey League to accommodate the players returning from injury.
Galchenyuk missed 18 games because of an injury to the same knee; he was injured Dec. 4 when he collided with Anze Kopitar during a game at the Los Angeles Kings. Galchenyuk returned Jan. 14 against the New York Rangers and scored in his first game back.
In his fifth game back, Galchenyuk injured the same knee in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Sabres on Jan. 21.
"There's nothing you can do about it," Galchenyuk said. "Stuff like that happens. You've got to stay positive and do the right thing and make sure you work hard at getting back at it, which I did. Now I'm ready to go."