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Canadiens' Pacioretty could return for start of playoffs

by Arpon Basu /

BROSSARD, Quebec -- Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty will miss the final two games of the regular season with an upper-body injury, but there is a possibility he will return in time for the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, coach Michel Therrien said Wednesday.

"It's a heavy loss, we won't hide that," Therrien said after practice. "He's a guy that had quality ice time, not only offensively but defensively. At the end of games when we're up a goal, he's the guy we send on the ice. We used him on the penalty kill. But don't make the mistake of tossing him aside. There's a possibility he plays next week."

The Canadiens will play the Detroit Red Wings at home on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; FS-D, RDS, SNE, CITYM) and travel to face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; CBC, TVA Sports), the final day of the regular season.

Montreal can still finish first or second in the Atlantic Division depending what happens in those two games and also on what the Tampa Bay Lightning do in their final two games. The Lightning are two points behind the Canadiens in the division standings.

Pacioretty fell heavily into the boards after being hit by Florida Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov in the first period of a 4-1 Canadiens win in Florida on Sunday.

He met with the Canadiens doctors Wednesday after returning from Florida with the team a day prior, and Therrien said he received a very precise diagnosis that he was not willing to share.

"We know exactly what he has," Therrien said. "He won't play the next two games. He will be re-evaluated next week and we'll have more details next week."

Pacioretty leads the Canadiens with 37 goals and 67 points and leads the NHL with a plus-38 rating. The left wing is an important voice in the Montreal room, taking on new leadership responsibilities this season, his first as an alternate captain.

Pacioretty's spot on left wing of the top line with Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher was filled at practice Wednesday by Alex Galchenyuk, with Devante Smith-Pelly taking Galchenyuk's spot on the second line with David Desharnais and PA Parenteau.

The Canadiens had the 22nd-ranked offense in the NHL prior to games Wednesday at 2.59 goals per game, and Pacioretty has been in on 32.4 percent of the Canadiens 207 goals scored this season.

"I don't think we're too worried," forward Lars Eller said. "We hope he's going to be back, but if he's not it's not going to crush us. Of course he's a big part of our team and he plays a lot of minutes, but we've seen so many times in the past teams that lose good players along the way and they still find ways to be successful.

"I have no doubt we can do that here as well if that's going to be the case."

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