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Montreal Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin is helped by a trainer after being checked by Boston Bruins left wing Milan Lucic, not shown, during first period National Hockey League action Saturday, April 6, 2013 in MontrealThe Canadian Press

It's almost as if injuries are a zero sum game.

The Montreal Canadiens Rene Bourque is nearing a return after six weeks out with a concussion - he took the practice ice on a regular line on Monday - and now comes news that defenceman Alexei Emelin is out for the year with a torn ligament in his left knee, courtesy of a collision with Boston's Milan Lucic last weekend.

It's a significant loss, despite a recent dip in form.

Emelin is leading the Habs in hits (and stands fourth in the NHL in that department), and has played the right side with fellow Russian Andrei Markov since the beginning of the year.

In that capacity he averaged nearly 20 minutes of ice time and has faced the opposition's top unit on several occasions, and with the continued absence of rearguard Raphael Diaz (also with a concussion) creates a problem for coach Michel Therrien.

In the near term, it would appear recently acquired veteran Davis Drewiskie or veteran Francis Bouillon will step in to the breach - although unlike Diaz, neither is right-handed.

And neither brings the same physical element or penalty-killing nous.

The Habs have called up rookie Nathan Beaulieu, who skated on a pair with Bouillon at practice. It would be a surprise if they don't recall 6-foot-7 rookie Jarred Tinordi from the farm at some point soon.