NEW YORK -- The Montreal Canadiens will play Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers on Thursday without forward Dale Weise or defenseman Alexei Emelin.
The Canadiens trail the best-of-7 series 3-2 and are trying to force a Game 7 at Bell Centre on Saturday.
Weise sustained what coach Michel Therrien termed a "body injury" when he was hit high by Rangers defenseman John Moore in Game 5 on Tuesday. Moore was suspended two games by the NHL Department of Player Safety and is being replaced in the Rangers lineup by Raphael Diaz, who ironically was the player Bergevin traded to acquire Weise.
Acquired to improve the Canadiens' depth up front, Weise has turned into an important player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with three goals, four assists and a plus-5 rating in 16 games. He is tied for the team lead with two game-winning goals, including one in overtime of Game 1 of Montreal's first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"He's been outstanding for us," Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges said. "Right from the first series until now, he's a guy that's kind of done everything for us. He's played physical, he's fast, he's hard on the forecheck, he plays a smart game, he's been able to contribute offensively for us; he's kind of done everything.
"He's been a big part of our success up until now."
Except Weise won't be part of the Canadiens' attempt to extend their season, and that may hurt more than anyone could have imagined back in February.
"He's been awesome," Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher said. "Ever since we got him, if you look at our record when he's in the lineup, I think it tells the story of what he brings. He uses his speed every night, he's a pain for other teams to play against and he's effective. He works hard and he plays the right way. He's really a big part of our team."
Montreal's record with Weise in the lineup is 22-7-4, if you count playoff overtime losses as overtime losses. The Canadiens' record when Weise was not in the lineup is 5-4-0.
Weise is replaced by Brandon Prust, who returns after serving a two-game suspension for a late hit on Rangers center Derek Stepan that broke his jaw.
"He's going to be hungry to play," Therrien said. "He's going to go hard. He's excited about playing tonight. We're glad he's back in our lineup."
Taking Weise out for Prust removes some offense from the Canadiens lineup, but adds a bit more of a physical and defensive element. Prust is a regular on Montreal's top penalty-killing unit with Tomas Plekanec and often plays late in games when the Canadiens are trying to protect a lead.
"He brings experience," Gallagher said. "Any time he's in the lineup he has that presence. He's a guy that we're happy to get back, he plays hard every night and he competes for his teammates. Any time you're in a situation that we're in, you want a guy like that on your team."
Most of the questions Therrien fielded from the media Thursday were concerning the fact Weise finished Game 5 after being left woozy on the ice by the hit from Moore. Weise got back to his feet quickly after the hit and looked as though he would fall right back down until defenseman P.K. Subban came over and held him up with a hug.
Therrien said following Game 5 that Weise went to the "quiet room" and followed the NHL's protocol regarding in-game concussions, but insisted Thursday to say Weise had a "body injury."
Asked to describe the criteria to evaluate whether a player is fit to return to a game, Therrien said he has to put his faith in his medical staff.
"Those are the things that I don't know. As a coach, I never get a concussion," Therrien said. "But one thing I trust, we trust our medical staff. We trust our doctor. So when they're saying that he's good to go, he's good to go.
"But right now he has a body injury."
Emelin is out for a second straight game due to another "body injury." He did not participate in the morning skate Thursday. Veteran Francis Bouillon and rookie Nathan Beaulieu will play.
Injured goaltender Carey Price took to the ice toward the end of the Canadiens skate. He took some shots from teammates and worked on his movement in the net, including dropping down into his butterfly position, as he continues to recover from a suspected right knee injury. Therrien has said Price will not be able to play in the series.
Here are the projected lineups:
Max Pacioretty – David Desharnais – Brendan Gallagher
Alex Galchenyuk – Tomas Plekanec – Brian Gionta
Rene Bourque – Daniel Briere – Brandon Prust
Michael Bournival – Lars Eller – Thomas Vanek
Josh Gorges – P.K. Subban
Andrei Markov – Mike Weaver
Francis Bouillon – Nathan Beaulieu
Scratched: Douglas Murray, George Parros, Jarred Tinordi, Travis Moen, Ryan White
Injured: Carey Price (knee), Dale Weise (undisclosed), Alexei Emelin (undisclosed)
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Rick Nash
Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Martin St. Louis
Benoit Pouliot - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello
Brian Boyle - Dominic Moore - Derek Dorsett
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
Raphael Diaz - Kevin Klein
Scratched: Justin Falk, Jesper Fast
Injured: J.T. Miller (upper body)
Suspended: Daniel Carcillo, John Moore