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Gudbranson ready for Panthers, pairs with Jovanovski

by Sean Farrell

MONTREAL -- Erik Gudbranson will return to the Florida Panthers' lineup Monday against the Montreal Canadiens.

Gudbranson missed Florida's previous five games because of a broken orbital bone. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound defenseman had surgery after sustaining the injury on Dec. 20 when he was struck in the face by a puck in a 5-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

He wore a full-face cage on his helmet at the Panthers' morning skate at Bell Centre.

"I was told it was a two-, three-week recovery, so it's two weeks [Monday]," Gudbranson said. "I feel ready to go, so it's fun to play. I'm excited to play. If I was worried, I wouldn't play. Obviously I'm wearing that cage for a reason. It's for safety and that'll certainly help me out. That'll ease my mind with it, but going out and playing my game shouldn't be an issue."

Gudbranson, who turns 22 on Tuesday, was partnered with Florida captain Ed Jovanovski, who made his season debut Saturday in a 5-4 shootout win against the Nashville Predators.

"It goes back to my first year," Gudbranson said. "I thought we played extremely well that year and it should be a seamless transition. We're both very vocal. We talk well on the ice and we've had that chemistry from that first year, so making that transition start with him should be good."

Jovanovksi, who had hip surgery in April, is looking forward to being reunited with Gudbranson.

"He's got a long future ahead of him," said Jovanovski, who saw 15:54 of ice time Saturday and finished plus-3 against Nashville. "He's only going to get better and it's good to be paired back up with him again. Young bones, they heal quick, but I think with his face being protected it allows him to come back."

Jonathan Huberdeau scored in the shootout, and had two assists against the Predators. He failed to score during the game, though, and arrives in Montreal with no goals in his past 10 games.

Canadiens coach Michel Therrien will go with the same lineup he used Saturday in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Ottawa Senators.

Therrien said Monday that center Ryan White's upper-body injury will sideline him for the next two weeks.

Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec was named the captain of the Czech Republic's Olympic team, which was announced Monday at a press conference in Prague.

Montreal defenseman Raphael Diaz was named to Switzerland's Olympic team Monday, but he will be a healthy scratch for a second straight game against Florida.

Here are the projected Panthers and Canadiens lineups:


Sean Bergenheim - Aleksander Barkov - Brad Boyes

Tomas Fleischmann - Nick BjugstadScottie Upshall

Jonathan Huberdeau - Marcel Goc - Tomas Kopecky

Krys BarchShawn Matthias - Jimmy Hayes

Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Brian Campbell - Tom Gilbert

Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver

Tim Thomas

Scott Clemmensen

Scratched: Drew Shore, Scott Gomez, Mike Mottau

Injured: Dylan Olsen (lower body), Alex Petrovic (upper body), Jesse Winchester (upper body)


Daniel Briere - Tomas Plekanec - Brian Gionta

Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Brendan Gallagher

Alex Galchenyuk - Lars Eller - Rene Bourque

Michael Bournival - Brandon Prust - Travis Moen

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban

Andrei Markov - Alexei Emelin

Douglas Murray - Francis Bouillon

Carey Price

Peter Budaj

Scratched: Raphael Diaz

Injured: Ryan White (upper body), George Parros (concussion), Davis Drewiske (shoulder)

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