Shea Weber will be out 4-6 weeks for the Montreal Canadiens with a left ankle injury.
"It's encouraging to know that he could be back," Montreal goalie Carey Price said. "He's obviously a big part of our locker room. We've got to fight to keep our chances alive here and hopefully he'll give us a boost when he gets back."
Weber was reevaluated by an orthopedic specialist on Wednesday and is expected to make a full recovery. The defenseman was injured in a 5-4 shootout win at the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 4. He had 34 points (13 goals, 21 assists) and was plus-8 in 55 games this season averaging 24:18 of ice time per game, most on the Canadiens and 12th in the NHL.
"Well I think it was actually what I was trying to tell you guys for the last week. There was some swelling; we had to wait for the swelling to go down before we were able to evaluate him," Montreal coach Claude Julien said. "Once the swelling went down and he got evaluated properly, then we got to the right answer for you guys. Like I said in French, there were a bunch of people speculating and stuff like that. That's what's dangerous: If we start speculating and I think this and that and then it turns out the other way. At the end of the day, we talked about trying to be transparent, that's what we tried to do and say once we get the news we'll let you know.
"So it ended up, when I say it's good news, it's because there's a player there that has an opportunity to come back. The injury is never good news, but I think the fact that it's looking much better than maybe everybody was fearing is what's part of the good news."
The Canadiens captain had tendons in his left foot repaired March 13, 2018, an injury that caused him to miss the final 48 games of that season and the first 24 games of 2018-19.
Montreal, which lost 4-1 at the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, is seven points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for third place in the Atlantic Division.
"I mean, it's positive in the sense of if we're able to end this losing streak and string together wins and get back in the hunt, we'll have him for the tail end of it," Montreal forward Brendan Gallagher said. "But for us right now, it's about making sure that he has something to play for when he gets back. That's something that you want to do for your captain."
Weber has 125 points (50 goals, 75 assists) in 217 games for Montreal since he was acquired in a trade with the Nashville Predators for defenseman P.K. Subban on June 29, 2016.