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Canadiens undermanned for crucial Game 4 vs. Bruins

by Shawn P. Roarke
MONTREAL -- As expected, there wasn't much coming out of Thursday's morning skates before Game 4 at the Bell Centre between Boston and Montreal (7 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS).

Montreal knows it is in desperate straits and, as a result, spouted all the clichés about taking it one game, one period, one shift at a time in an attempt to force a Game 5. Boston, meanwhile, talked about focusing on the task at hand -- putting away a respected playoff opponent -- as soon as possible.

About the only thing of note were roster decisions by both coaches. Montreal will have to play its best without icing its best lineup, although Gainey has already committed to starting goalie Carey Price for Game 4. There was some thought that Jaroslav Halak would get the nod because Price has given up 11 goals in the first three games and has had some issues with rebound control.

Defenseman Mathieu Schneider didn't even last 10 minutes in what was a spirited morning skate. He was later ruled out by Gainey, who also said that defenseman Patrice Brisebois is out. Brisebois, who took part in the morning skate, suffered a lower-body injury in Game 2 and has not played since.

The status of forward Alex Tanguay remains up in the air. Tanguay did not play in Game 3 and did not take part in either Thursday's morning skate or Wednesday's optional skate at the team's practice facility. Gainey said Thursday morning that Tanguay would be a game-time decision. Andrei Markov, Robert Lang and Francis Bouillon are also ruled out for the home team.

For Boston, the only lineup change is obviously good news for Bruins faithful. Rugged winger Milan Lucic, who has been a thorn in Montreal's side throughout this season, is back from his one-game suspension. It is expected that Byron Bitz, who made his playoff debut in Game 3, will be scratched.

There is a chance though that Lucic will not rejoin the dangerous line of David Krejci and Michael Ryder, despite playing their effectively in the first two games.

"I'm not trying to hide anything," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "I'm just allowing myself today to really look at my lineup. Milan will be in the lineup, let's not get me wrong. But as far as where he is going to be put in, I'm going to bounce a few things around and that's why the game starts at 7 p.m. and that is why I have a few more hours to think."

Boston did not hold a morning skate Thursday, so there was nothing about a possible change to be gleaned from practice. The versatile Blake Wheeler could remain with Krejci and Ryder, his position for Game 3, and Lucic would join the fourth line with Stephane Yelle and Shawn Thornton.

But whatever the look of the lineup, Julien promises his team will be focused on ending this series Thursday night. His team came back against these same Canadiens in last year's first round of playoffs, forcing a Game 7 after trailing three games to one.

"There's no doubt that this is something we all have in the back of our minds and certainly don't want to have happen," Julien said. "Having said that, our team has been grounded all year and is grounded today. We're ready to face a hard challenge tonight, but we are also ready to play."

Montreal will attempt to extend its season for at least another 72 hours, to Game 5 on Saturday night in Boston. Gainey says his team is looking forward to the opportunity

"You're not going to get any Knute Rockne out of me," he said Thursday morning. "Let's play, we got another game, we earned our chance to play today, we earned it two weeks ago when we took the last playoff spot, so we deserve to play today and we are going to play our best."

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