Coach Michel Therrien expects to see a lot youngsters in action for the Montreal Canadiens over the final 22 games of a disappointing season.
With six players out with injuries — including star goaltender Carey Price since late November — and with their playoff prospects looking bleak, there should be a lot of youth on the ice.
“First of all, we’ll give a chance to a lot of young players to show what they can do, and at the same time we can evaluate them,” Therrien said Tuesday when asked how he’ll approach the final weeks of the campaign. “To me, each game is important for our young team.
“We’re very young, on defence and attack. I’m anxious to see how they play.”
There could be even more youngsters on the ice if general manager Marc Bergevin opts to shed veterans ahead of Monday’s NHL trade deadline.
If Bergevin becomes a seller rather than a buyer on the trade market, it would signal that the Canadiens’ pre-season goal of competing for a Stanley Cup has been shelved for this season.
Forward Dale Weise, an impending unrestricted free agent, is a prime candidate for a trade.
So was defenceman Tom Gilbert, but the team announced he’ll miss the rest of the season with a left knee injury that will require surgery. That eliminates the chance of getting a draft pick or a prospect for him at the deadline.
Others, including centre Lars Eller, have been named in trade rumours.
Among the injured is defenceman Jeff Petry. He skated Tuesday, but team doctors decided to keep him out for a seventh straight game when the Canadiens play at first-place Washington on Wednesday night.
They will also be without rearguard Nathan Beaulieu, who looked to have hurt a knee when he crashed into a goalpost during a 2-1 shootout loss to Nashville on Monday night. Therrien said more details should be known Wednesday on how long he will be out.
Centre David Desharnais is out three weeks with a fractured foot, Brian Flynn is gone six to eight weeks with a lower-body injury and winger Daniel Carr is out three months with a bad knee.
The locker-room is already well populated with call-ups from St. John’s of the American Hockey League, including forwards Jacob de la Rose, Sven Andrighetto, Lucas Lessio, rearguard Mark Barberio and the latest addition, defenceman Victor Bartley.
Last season, the Canadiens had few injuries and finished second overall in the 30-team league. They carried it into 2015-’16 with a 19-4-3 start, but since shortly after Price went down, they’ve gone 9-21-3 and dropped to sixth place in the Atlantic Division. They would need to climb past four teams to reach a playoff spot.
“It’s not the way you draw up a season,” said captain Max Pacioretty. “It’s a lot of adversity we’re facing.
“A lot of key guys got injured. We need to have that next-man-up mentality. It’s unfortunate the way injuries have played a role this season but we can’t worry about that. We have to worry about who’s in the lineup.”
Canadiens fans are still awaiting news on whether Price will play again this season.
The original announcement suggested he may be back in early January. But more than a month later, last season’s league MVP and top goalie has yet to resume practising in equipment. The last time he even skated was Sunday.
The team may opt to shut him down to let his suspected knee injury heal completely and be ready for next season.Report Typo/Error