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Alexei Emelin might return for Canadiens in Game 5

Montreal defenseman could play Thursday against Rangers after missing first four games with lower-body injury

by Sean Farrell / NHL.com Correspondent

BROSSARD, Quebec -- Montreal Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin might return for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the New York Rangers at Bell Centre on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; USA, CBC, TVA Sports, MSG).

Emelin skated with Montreal's extra players Wednesday. It was the first time he has skated with teammates since he sustained a lower-body injury on April 5.

He missed the Canadiens' last two regular-season games and the first four games of this best-of-7 series, which is tied 2-2.

 

[RELATED: Complete Canadiens vs. Rangers series coverage]

 

"It's a positive sign because he's practicing with his teammates," Montreal coach Claude Julien said. "He still has to be evaluated by our medical staff, which will happen after, and possibly [Thursday] as well, before making a final decision."

Emelin led Montreal during the regular season with 241 hits, which ranked ninth in the NHL. He had 10 points (two goals, eight assists) and 71 penalty minutes in 76 games.

Defenseman Brandon Davidson played Games 3 and 4 in New York. He replaced Nikita Nesterov, who struggled during the first two games in Montreal.

Acquired in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers for forward David Desharnais on Feb. 28, Davidson was in the lineup for the final six regular-season games. Nesterov played the last four when Julien rotated through his roster depth, which includes three extra forwards.

"Everybody has to be ready for any game," said Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov, who was rested for the final regular-season game with forwards Max Pacioretty, Alexander Radulov and Tomas Plekanec.

Other than Emelin, Montreal began the Stanley Cup Playoffs healthy. Defensemen Shea Weber and Jordie Benn returned from late-season injuries in Game 1, a 2-0 win by the Rangers.

Forward Torrey Mitchell replaced Andreas Martinsen on the fourth line for Game 3 in New York, when Montreal took a 2-1 series lead with a 3-1 victory.

"It's not the easiest thing, but I was practicing hard and waiting for my opportunity," said Mitchell, who scored for the Canadiens in a 2-1 loss in Game 4.

Martinsen, and forwards Steve Ott and Dwight King, were acquired prior to the NHL Trade Deadline. King won the Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and 2014. Ott has been to the Stanley Cup Playoffs nine times in 14 seasons.

"Obviously the last month of the season we were all taking turns of playing and helping contribute, and [if] you hope to have a long playoff run you're going to need every single guy," Ott said. "And similar to Torrey Mitchell stepping in and playing great hockey for us as well, I think all of us know that at any given time every single guy on this roster can be playing."

Mitchell, who has been to the playoffs eight times in nine seasons, spoke about the mental toughness it takes to transition from being a healthy scratch.

"We have a lot of guys on the fourth line that are pretty mature," Mitchell said. "So we're not very fragile, I guess, if he has to rotate other guys in. And there's a lot of competition, a lot of competition amongst our line specifically, so you really can't take a shift off, I guess, which is probably the mentality that everybody needs to have."

Ott and King have played in the four games of the series; forwards Brian Flynn and Michael McCarron have yet to play.

"Everybody has a hope of getting in there if they haven't gotten in there yet so far, so we've got a great approach right now," Julien said. "Our dressing room is great and I'm trying to make sure it stays that way."

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