The Montreal Canadiens will get some help down the middle Tuesday night while their opponent is staring at a big void at the position for the foreseeable future.
Daniel Briere, who suffered a concussion on Oct. 19, will make his return against the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning after missing 10 games.
"When you're not playing, especially when the team is having a tough stretch like we had with those four losses in a row, you feel responsible," Briere, 36, told reporters at Tuesday's morning skate.
He'll likely shift from the wing to centre a line with Michael Bournival and Rene Bourque.
“I played centre pretty much my whole career,” Briere told reporters Monday, “so I feel a little bit more comfortable [there]. Best-case scenario, there won't be any adjustments and I'll fit right back in."
On Monday, Briere said he hadn't experienced any post-concussion symptoms for some time and felt “really close” to a return.
'I feel confident that whenever I'll be back in the lineup that I can take a hit and there won't be any times where I'll be afraid to go in a corner in a situation.' - Canadiens forward Daniel Briere
Should Briere return Tuesday, he won’t have to take a faceoff against Steven Stamkos, who is out of the Lightning lineup indefinitely after breaking his right tibia (shin bone) in Monday’s 3-0 loss to Boston.
Briere suffered his third concussion since January 2012 when he collided with Nashville Predators forward Eric Nystrom.
“I feel confident that whenever I’ll be back in the lineup that I can take a hit and there won’t be any times where I’ll be afraid to go in a corner in a situation,” he said.
Briere takes the place of David Desharnais, who will be a healthy scratch after mustering only one assist in 17 games.
On the blue-line, Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien is looking at this weekend for the return of physical defenceman Alexei Emelin, who hasn’t played since having knee surgery in April.
On Monday in New York, Emelin met with the doctor who repaired the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee in May.
“Everything is going well,” said Therrien of Emelin, who agreed to a four-year contract extension on Oct. 31, told reporters. “He’s got a good chance to play this weekend.”
Emelin, 27, scored three goals and 12 points in 38 games last season. The six-foot-two, 224-pounder added 110 hits, 47 blocked shots and a plus-2 rating.
But, Therrien said, he will ease the Russian back into his job, so don’t expect Emelin to play the 19 minutes 40 seconds he averaged in 38 games last season in his return.
Canadiens forward Travis Moen will also return for Tuesday’s contest after leaving the bench during Sunday’s game against the New York Islanders because of the flu. Defenceman Douglas Murray took a maintenance day Monday but is expected to face Tampa Bay.