TAMPA -- The Montreal Canadiens will welcome forward Brandon Prust back into the lineup Wednesday for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Tampa Bay Lightning (7 p.m. ET; CNBC, CBC, RDS) at Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Prust missed the final 12 games of the regular season with an upper-body injury and played four of the Canadiens' 23 games since the return from the break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but there was no way he would miss the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"It's a brand new season," Prust said. "Everything's stepped up a notch. I'm not really sure what happens, but something goes in the brain and everybody's just ramped up. It's an all-out war."
Prust's skill set is perhaps most valuable around this time of year when the level of competition gets higher. One player on the Lightning who knows very well what Prust can bring in a playoff series is Ryan Callahan, his former teammate on the New York Rangers.
"He's a great competitor," Callahan said. "I played with him for a couple of years and he's one of those guys that you don't like to play against but you love having on your team. I've got a lot of respect for the way he plays and I'm excited to go up against him."
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien will dress Michael Bournival on the fourth line and Francis Bouillon on his third defense pair, meaning forward Ryan White and defenseman Douglas Murray will be scratched. Therrien said the speed of the Lightning was a factor in each decision.
"A guy like Francis Bouillon has good mobility, he's good defensively in front his net, he's good 1-on-1. That's why we decided to go with Francis," Therrien said. "I like Bournival's speed a lot. We're playing a fast team, and he's good on the forecheck, he's able to kill penalties, something he learned over the course of the season."
Neither the Canadiens nor the Lightning showed line combinations at the morning skate, with Montreal's top line of Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais and Thomas Vanek taking the morning off. But one thing Therrien shared on the Canadiens' strategy is that he will not go chasing after a particular matchup when it comes to facing Lightning forward Steven Stamkos, the NHL leader in goals per game this season.
Without the last change on the road, the Canadiens will put their faith in whoever happens to be on the ice when Cooper sends Stamkos over the boards.
"My philosophy has been that when guys are on the ice and it's not the matchup that we're looking for, I have to show as a coach confidence in the players that they can do the job," Therrien said. "To always take those guys out, I'm not a big fan of that."
Here are the projected lineups:
Max Pacioretty – David Desharnais – Thomas Vanek
Brandon Prust – Tomas Plekanec – Brendan Gallagher
Rene Bourque – Lars Eller – Brian Gionta
Michael Bournival – Daniel Briere – Dale Weise
Andrei Markov – Alexei Emelin
Josh Gorges – P.K. Subban
Francis Bouillon – Mike Weaver
Scratched: Douglas Murray, Ryan White, George Parros
Injured: Travis Moen (concussion), Alex Galchenyuk (lower body)
Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Steven Stamkos
Alex Killorn - Valtteri Filppula - Ryan Callahan
J.T, Brown - Tom Pyatt - Nikita Kucherov
Teddy Purcell - Nate Thompson - B.J. Crombeen
Sami Salo - Victor Hedman
Eric Brewer - Michael Kostka
Matthew Carle - Radko Gudas
Scratched: Keith Aulie, Mark Barberio, Ryan Malone, Cedric Paquette, Andrej Sustr, Richard Panik
Injured: Ben Bishop (upper body)