MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens will have defenseman Raphael Diaz back in the lineup when they face the Washington Capitals in a key battle for Stanley Cup Playoff positioning Saturday at Bell Centre.
Diaz has missed 25 games with a concussion; he was a key member of Montreal’s defense prior to the injury, playing 20:36 per game. With Alexei Emelin’s season-ending knee injury throwing the Canadiens defense pairings into a state of flux, Diaz’s return is a welcome boost.
In 19 games this season, Diaz has a goal and 12 assists, with seven of his 13 points coming on the power play, where he could help Montreal’s second unit.
The Capitals will be going with the same lineup that lost 3-1 at Ottawa Senators on Thursday, one still missing Brooks Laich (groin) and Joel Ward (knee contusion). By the time the puck drops, the Capitals will know the result of the game between the Winnipeg Jets and the New York Islanders. The Jets began the day two points behind the Capitals in the race for the Southeast Division.
“We’re all scoreboard watching, obviously, and the game’s earlier than ours so it makes it difficult,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said. “But our job is to play hockey. The guys are going to go to sleep focusing on the game tonight. No matter the outcome of that game, we’ve got to play our game tonight.”
The goaltending matchup pits Braden Holtby for the Capitals against Carey Price for the Canadiens.
Here are the projected lineups for each team:
Marcus Johansson – Nicklas Backstrom – Alex Ovechkin
Martin Erat – Mike Ribeiro – Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera – Mathieu Perreault – Eric Fehr
Aaron Volpatti – Matt Hendricks – Jay Beagle
Karl Alzner – Mike Green
John Erskine – John Carlson
Jack Hillen – Steve Oleksy
Scratched: Wojtek Wolski, Jeff Schultz
Injured: Brooks Laich (groin), Joel Ward (knee), Tom Poti (back)
Max Pacioretty – Tomas Plekanec – Brian Gionta
Rene Bourque – David Desharnais – Michael Ryder
Alex Galchenyuk – Lars Eller – Brendan Gallagher
Travis Moen – Jeff Halpern – Brandon Prust
Josh Gorges – P.K. Subban
Andrei Markov – Raphael Diaz
Francis Bouillon – Yannick Weber
Scratched: Mike Blunden, Davis Drewiske, Gabriel Dumont, Tomas Kaberle, Ryan White (suspended)
Injured: Colby Armstrong (knee), Alexei Emelin (knee)