BROSSARD, Quebec -- Montreal Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges took part in his first full practice with his teammates Monday since breaking his hand and said afterward he expects to be in uniform Wednesday when the Canadiens face the Chicago Blackhawks on the road.
"We'll have to get final word from the doctor," Gorges said, "but as far as I know I'm cleared and ready to go."
Gorges has missed the past 15 games with a broken left hand, the result of blocking a Mason Raymond slap shot in a 4-3 overtime win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 1. Gorges played two more games with the injury before he and the team decided surgery was the best course of action.
Gorges had surgery March 10 and was expected to miss four weeks. Monday marked exactly four weeks from that date.
"The plan has always been from Day 1 to come back for the last three games, starting with Wednesday's game," said Gorges, who has been shooting pucks and stickhandling since the middle of last week. "We're still on par with that. I feel good, I feel like I'm ready to go, ready to play. There's nothing from my side of things that I think would stop me from playing, so just as long as the doctor gives me the green light, I'm ready to go for Wednesday."
Defense - MTL
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 12 | PTS: 13
SOG: 34 | +/-: 7
After losing the first three games Gorges missed, the Canadiens went on a run of 10 wins in 12 games that they will be riding into Chicago on Wednesday.
"The guys played unbelievable these last couple of weeks," Gorges said. "Just watching the games you see the commitment to detail, you see the perseverance. We all know about the talent level and all those sorts of things, but to watch the team compete the way they competed, come back in games, give up leads and stay resilient, it was great to see from the group."
The absence of Gorges created a gaping hole in Montreal's top-four on defense to the left of P.K. Subban. It has been filled by Francis Bouillon, Douglas Murray and Jarred Tinordi over the span Gorges was out, with varying degrees of success for each.
The ideal partner for Subban is someone that can be reliable defensively and who can also play the minutes, both in terms of volume and difficulty, that Subban does.
Aside from Gorges and top-pair defenseman Andrei Markov, the Canadiens don't really have a player like that.
The return of Gorges and the solid play of new acquisition Mike Weaver on the right side of the third pairing means that in all likelihood only one of Murray, Bouillon or Tinordi will get to play, with Murray definitely sitting out Wednesday as he serves the final game of his three-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Michael Kostka.
In the first game following Gorges' surgery, Murray, Bouillon and Tinordi were all in the Montreal lineup.
"It's important to have that depth," Gorges said. "In this game, you never know what can happen. Injuries are part of it, guys can go down, and it's always great to know that not only do you have one, but three guys that we can rely on to come in at any time and you don't have to worry about how much they play. They can all come in and contribute and that's a great thing for a team to have."
Gorges is not the only player the Canadiens may be welcoming back Wednesday.
Forward Dale Weise also took part in his first practice with his teammates since sustaining an upper body injury in a game against the Boston Bruins on March 24 when he fell hard into the boards after a check by Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller. Weise has missed the past six games and said after practice that if he feels good Tuesday, he could be in the lineup Wednesday.
"It felt good today," Weise said. "Obviously I need to go through the process and see how I feel [Tuesday]. But all signs point to being 100 percent, and I felt good today."
Weise was part of what looked to be a promising fourth line for the Canadiens, but all three members of the line were injured in a span of a week.
Three days prior to Weise's injury the Canadiens announced Brandon Prust would be lost for the rest of the regular season with an upper-body injury believed to be his ribs, one he aggravated in a game March 18 against the Colorado Avalanche. After Weise took the hit from Miller, his linemate Travis Moen challenged Miller to a fight and sustained a concussion.
Prust's status will be re-evaluated prior to the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Moen has not resumed skating since his injury.