Canadiens’ Jonathan Drouin could return vs. Maple Leafs on Saturday

Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin is feeling good, close to returning, and sick of watching from the press box, but says it's hard to comment on a team's play when you're not actually out there in the moment.

BROSSARD, Que. — In the 85 days since Jonathan Drouin went down with a left wrist injury that required surgery to repair a torn tendon, the Montreal Canadiens have cobbled together a 15-17-3 record and dropped from sitting comfortably in a playoff spot to fighting to keep their dim post-season hopes alive.

To say they’ve missed him would be greatly understating it. Drouin started the season with seven goals and eight assists, and he put up at least a point in 13 of his first 17 games.

But it wasn’t just what the Ste. Agathe, Que., native was doing on offence that helped the Canadiens to a strong start to their season. Drouin was playing top-line minutes, committed defence and providing a lot of energy to the group.

Now there’s a chance Drouin could play when the Toronto Maple Leafs take on the Canadiens at the Bell Centre on Saturday.

At least that’s what Montreal coach Claude Julien is hoping for.

“In Jonathan’s case, we don’t know yet,” said Julien during his Saturday morning availability, which took place while Drouin was skating with several players who chose to take part in the team’s optional practice.

“It’s something we have to speak to our trainers about, but the decision belongs to him. It’s something we’re going to wait to see.”

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It’s going to come down to how much pain and stiffness Drouin can tolerate because, as Julien noted, he’s fully healed from the surgery.

“Right now, with the wrist, it’s about how much he can do with it and everything else and how comfortable (he is),” said Julien.

It’s a decision that will be made closer to the 7:15 p.m. ET puck drop, but take it as a good sign that Drouin was not on the ice after practice with expected scratches Jordan Weal and Christian Folin. Ryan Poehling also skated after practice, but the Canadiens announced shortly after that he had been assigned to their AHL affiliate, the Laval Rocket.

Also in that group was Paul Byron, who resumed practising for the first time since Dec. 13.

Byron suffered a knee injury in the same game Drouin went down — a 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals back on Nov. 15. He had surgery on Nov. 19 and only made that one appearance at practice in December before being shut down again.

“We’ll see how it goes, but it’s good news for us,” said Julien. “We’re excited to see him on the ice with us, too. He’s always been an important player for us and we’ve missed him so far this year, so it’s nice to see back on the ice with us.”

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One player who won’t be on the ice for at least a few more days is Shea Weber, the Canadiens’ captain who suffered a lower-body injury in a 5-4 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.

The severity of Weber’s injury is still unknown.

“It’s still the same thing — the swelling prevents us from having a real diagnosis on his injury and that’s what we’re waiting for,” the coach said. “Once that’s down, then you’re able to examine it a little closer.”

Weber had 13 goals and 34 points and had appeared in 55 of Montreal’s 56 games this season. In the team’s only game without him on Thursday, the Canadiens beat the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 in overtime.

In that game several Canadiens were dealing with a flu bug that began working its way through the team a week ago. Some are still feeling the effects, so Montreal’s lineup versus the Toronto Maple Leafs has yet to be confirmed.

“There’s so man question marks here I’ve got to put the puzzle together, believe it or not, this afternoon” Julien said. “I’ve got my game card on my desk and it’s blank right now.”

But he’s hoping to fill it with Drouin’s name, among others.

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