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Canadiens' Pacioretty not expected to play in Game 1

by Sean Farrell /

BROSSARD, Quebec -- Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty has not been cleared to play by team medical staff, coach Michel Therrien said Tuesday, leaving his status for the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs uncertain.

Therrien did not expect Pacioretty to be available for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round series against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, CBC, TVA Sports), though he did not completely rule him out.

Pacioretty, who led the team with 37 goals and 67 points and had a plus-38 rating that tied for the NHL lead, missed the last two games of the regular season because of an upper-body injury. He wore a contact jersey and practiced with his teammates Tuesday, though he did not take part in line rushes or any contact drills.

"I'll be surprised," Therrien said. "I believe that if they think that Max is going to be there they would let us know [Tuesday] morning."

Defenseman Tom Gilbert is ready to return after missing six of the final nine games of the regular season, including the final two, because of an upper-body injury.

Gilbert will continue to wear the plastic jaw protector that was attached to his helmet when he first returned after missing four games after he was struck in the face by a puck for a second game in a row on March 21.

"It's one of those things where you'd like to get a game in before the playoffs, but I think the best thing for me was just to rest and heal, and I'm ready to go now," Gilbert said.

The absences of Pacioretty and Gilbert in the final two regular-season games brought Montreal's man-games lost for the season to 88, the lowest total in the NHL according to the website By contrast, Ottawa had 283 man-games lost.

As a result, the Canadiens have great depth entering the playoffs, particularly on defense, where Therrien has nine essentially healthy bodies at his disposal.

"We're very deep on the back end, as we are up front too," defenseman Nathan Beaulieu said. "We've got a lot of hockey players that can play here, so that's just kudos to the management and coaching staff and the development of our players, so it's never a bad thing to have too many guys."

Sergei Gonchar, Mike Weaver and rookie Greg Pateryn will likely sit out Wednesday with top pair Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban leading a defense that also boasts Jeff Petry paired with Alexei Emelin, and Beaulieu with Gilbert.

"You know how it is in the playoffs, the game is going to be played at another level," said Gonchar, who was acquired in a trade with the Dallas Stars on Nov. 11, 2014. "A lot of hits, a lot of physical stuff, so I think you always have to be ready and make sure that you have enough depth, and that's what the team has done. They built it up before the playoffs start."

Gonchar played three games with Dallas and 45 with the Canadiens, though only one of their past 14. Weaver played 31 games in his second season with the Canadiens, though only five after Dec. 6. Pateryn played 15 games.

"We're all professionals," said Gonchar, who has 22 goals and 90 points in 141 playoff games. "We want to make sure that everybody is ready when we're needed."

The Canadiens finished in a tie with the Chicago Blackhawks for the League lead in fewest goals allowed with 189. As a result, Montreal goalie Carey Price shares the William M. Jennings Trophy with Chicago's Corey Crawford.

"We like our defense," Therrien said. "We've got depth and we've got some experience. We've got the luxury right now to have lefty defense playing on their strong side, same thing on the right side; that's one aspect that we really like. You look at the goals against this year, we want to take a lot of pride about being a good defensive team and that was kind of our mindset. And a big part, yes, it was Carey Price, but as a unit of five and with our defense we were capable to play, and we take a lot of pride in that."

Therrien began his press conference by offering his sympathies to the family of Mark Reeds. The Senators assistant coach died of cancer Tuesday at the age of 55.

"The hockey world, it's a big family, and we've just lost a good man," Therrien said.

Gonchar, who played for Ottawa in the 2013 playoff series against Montreal, said he was very sad when he heard about Reed's death.

"He was a great man," Gonchar said. "It's a big loss for the community in my mind. I worked with him for three years. Great guy, great coach, great spirit, so I think everybody in the hockey world will miss him."

The Canadiens will travel to Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, for the two days between the third and fourth games of the series Sunday and Wednesday, respectively.

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