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Murray injury comes at worst time for Canadiens

by Arpon Basu

The Montreal Canadiens signed free agent defenseman Douglas Murray to fill a big hole on their blue line, but an injury puts him at risk of losing that job to someone else.

The Canadiens announced Monday that Murray would miss four to six weeks with an upper-body injury sustained at practice Sunday. This comes after Murray missed most of training camp and the entire preseason schedule with a lower-body injury.

Murray was signed Aug. 22 to help fill the void left by the loss of Alexei Emelin, a physical presence on the blue line that was a key component to Montreal's penalty-kill unit. Those are both things Murray has been known for throughout his eight seasons in the NHL with the San Jose Sharks and briefly last season with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Emelin is not expected to be ready to play before December as he recovers from surgery to repair the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee. That is about nine weeks away, so if Murray is out for six of those weeks, it eats up a lot of the time he was expected to fill that void.

In Murray's absence Canadiens coach Michel Therrien gave rookie Jarred Tinordi, 21, a long look in training camp, playing him in each of the team's first six preseason games, and Therrien said Tinordi will be on the season-opening 23-man roster. Tinordi, 6-foot-6 and 227 pounds, made a concerted effort to provide exactly what the Canadiens lost in Emelin, laying big hits and playing sound defensively, and now will get an extended audition with Murray on the shelf.

Tinordi likely will play on the third defensive pairing with Francis Bouillon -- a spot that had been earmarked for Murray -- but whether he gets time on the penalty kill remains to be seen. Through the preseason Therrien has been using Josh Gorges, Andrei Markov, Raphael Diaz and Bouillon as his primary penalty killers on defense, and it's likely he will continue doing that when the regular season opens Tuesday at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS). If there is a defenseman added to that rotation, it probably would be P.K. Subban, who was a regular penalty killer for the Canadiens for the two seasons prior to Therrien's arrival last season.

The loss of Murray means the Canadiens are down to six healthy defensemen, with Emelin and Davis Drewiske out, but Therrien said Monday that no call-ups are planned with a light schedule ahead. Montreal plays its second game Saturday at home against the Philadelphia Flyers and then embarks on a four-game Western Canadian road trip that begins Oct. 9 at the Calgary Flames.

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