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Pacioretty returns eight days after appendectomy

by Arpon Basu

MONTREALMax Pacioretty returned to the Montreal Canadiens lineup against the Ottawa Senators on Sunday afternoon, eight days after undergoing an emergency appendectomy.

With the Canadiens coming off a 6-1 win on Saturday and no real reason to tinker with the lineup, Pacioretty was pretty happy they came up with a 2-1 win.

"It was tough for him [Canadiens coach Michel Therrien] to put me in the lineup after a 6-1 win, especially with a lot of guys stepping up and scoring goals," Pacioretty said. "I’m thankful I got the opportunity and I knew we had to get two points or else it would look bad on me."

Pacioretty had an assist on his first shift and played just over 16 minutes, finishing the day with a plus-2 rating and three hits.

"We decided to take a game time decision," Therrien said. "I'm glad I took that decision because he had an impact on the game."

The original prognosis for Pacioretty was a three to four week absence following last Saturday’s surgical procedure, but he skated on a Canadiens off day Thursday and joined his teammates for a 90-minute practice on Friday.

"I saw that and I was just as upset as the fans were," Pacioretty said of the original estimate of a minimum three-week absence. "I didn’t know anything about the surgery so I couldn’t comment on it, but it got better every day and it still continues to get better every day."

Pacioretty played with his usual linemates David Desharnais and Erik Cole, bumping Lars Eller down to center the fourth line between Travis Moen and Colby Armstrong. Eller had a goal and three assists in Saturday’s 6-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres playing left wing with Desharnais and Cole, and then he suddenly found himself on the fourth line.

This is the first time this season the Canadiens are icing their full lineup after the return of defenseman P.K. Subban in Saturday’s game following a prolonged contract negotiation for the restricted free agent defenseman.

"We have a healthy lineup right now and we have depth," Therrien said. "We're glad to have that depth."

Pacioretty has a history of proving doctors wrong.

He won the Bill Masterton Trophy last season for coming back from a concussion and cracked vertebra in his neck, costing him the final 15 games and seven playoff games in 2010-11. He also suffered a cracked rib earlier in the 2010-11 season, being rushed to hospital in Buffalo after taking a puck to the ribs during a game against the Sabres.

That cracked rib did not cost Pacioretty a single game, and he was cleared to return to action for the second round of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs if the Canadiens had managed to win Game 7 of the first round against the Boston Bruins just two months after his concussion and cracked vertebra.

"I think it’s something I actually learned growing up; I look at adversity as a good thing," Pacioretty said. "I’ve had to deal with a lot in my career, whether it be injuries or getting sent down (to the minors), you name it. I’ve had a bumpy road here in Montreal, and I wouldn’t change any of it for a second. It’s made me the player and the person I am right now."

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