Canadiens Game Day: Habs forced to juggle forward lines vs. Leafs

Forwards Jonathan Drouin, Paul Byron and Tomas Tatar did not take part in the Canadiens’ morning skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard ahead of Wednesday night’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre (8 p.m., SN, RDS2, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

The Canadiens announced Wednesday morning that Drouin had been placed on the long-term injured reserve list for personal reasons and will be absent indefinitely. The Canadiens asked that Drouin’s privacy be respected.

Byron and Tatar have been dealing with lower-body injuries. Byron has missed the last two games with his injury — a 5-2 loss to the Flames last Saturday and a 2-1 win in Calgary on Monday. Tatar sat out the third period of Saturday’s game but was in the lineup Monday night.

Drouin missed the last two games with what the Canadiens said was a non-COVID related illness.

In 44 games this season, Drouin has 2-21-23 totals and is minus-8. While Drouin ranks second on the team in assists — trailing Jeff Petry, who has 22 — he has gone 26 games without scoring a goal.

After the morning skate, head coach Dominique Ducharme wouldn’t go into details about Drouin’s situation, but did say the player has the support of the team and his teammates.

When asked if he’s hoping Drouin will be able to return to the Canadiens before the end of the regular season or in the playoffs, if the Canadiens get there, Ducharme said: “The most important thing right now is Jo taking care of what he needs to take care of. When I hear his name this morning, I don’t think hockey. I think about the person.”

The coach added: “I talk to my players daily, I like to know how they’re feeling. Our role is to get the best out of them. We’re here to help them, challenge them, and help them reach their full potential. But we’re also here for individuals. I’ve always acted the same way with Jonathan as with any other player. We’re here to support them and we’ll always be there for them.”

Ducharme said he couldn’t confirm what his starting lineup will be because some things were still up in the air. Ducharme added there’s a good chance the Canadiens will use their last available call-up this season to get defenceman Alexander Romanov in the lineup, taking him off the taxi squad.

“Again, it’s all a matter of combinations and who’s in, who’s not,” the coaach said. “But there’s a chance that, yeah, we could use that last recall for him.”

Jake Allen will start in goal for the Canadiens.

Ducharme did have an update on goalie Carey Price, who has missed the last four games with a concussion.

“He’s doing better,” the coach said. “He had a test today so we’ll know a little bit more. There was some good news to get yesterday. It’s always tricky (with concussions), but he’s heading in the right direction.”

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