The Canadiens will likely finish the regular season without centre Phillip Danault, who is suffering from a concussion.
Danault left Thursday’s game in Toronto with what was described as an upper-body injury which had bothered him prior to the game. Coach Dominique Ducharme said Saturday that Danault has returned to Montreal and is going through the NHL concussion protocol.
That means he’s out for Saturday’s rematch against the Maple Leafs (7 p.m., CBC, TVA Sports, TSN-690 Radio, 98.5 FM) and unlikely that he’ll play in the season-ending home games against Edmonton Monday and Wednesday.
The best case scenario is that Danault is ready for the playoffs, but there are no guarantees when dealing with a concussion. Goaltender Carey Price suffered a concussion on April 19 and only resumed skating earlier this week.
The injury forced Ducharme to juggle his forward lines and Jesperi Kotkaniemi will return to centre on a line with Tomas Tatar and Joel Armia.
Danault’s place in the lineup will be filled by 29-year-old Alex Belzile. He made a good impression in the playoff bubble last summer but Saturday’s game will be his first NHL regular season game. There will be a bit of a comfort level as he’ll be playing with Jake Evans, his linemate for two seasons in the AHL.
The Canadiens are attempting to wrap up a playoff spot in the Canadian division after coming up short in their last two games, losing 5-1 to Ottawa Wednesday and 5-2 to the Leafs on Thursday. The two teams chasing them — Calgary and Vancouver — have to win all their remaining games to overtake Montreal but Ducharme said it was preferable for the Canadiens to go in through the front door and build some momentum for the playoffs.
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