Canadiens Game Day: Andrew Shaw returns to Habs lineup vs. Leafs

Canadiens can move ahead of Toronto and into second place in Atlantic Division with a regulation-time win Saturday night at the Bell Centre.

Andrew Shaw, who has missed the last 15 games with a neck injury, will return to the Canadiens lineup Saturday night when they play the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre (7 p.m., CBC, SN1, CITY, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio).

So it wasn’t a surprise that Shaw led the team stretch at the end of Saturday’s morning skate, but it was a bit of a surprise that Victor Mete joined him.

“His home town is Toronto … he probably grew up loving the Leafs, so I thought it would be good for him to join in on the stretch,” Shaw said about Mete after the morning skate.

Said Mete: “(Shaw) just said whoever’s from Toronto come in, but I guess Doms (Max Domi) didn’t hear, so then they told me to go in with him.”

Shaw suffered his neck injury, which also gave him headaches, during a game in Dallas on New Year’s Eve. Shaw has a history of concussions, so the Canadiens medical staff has been careful with him and didn’t give him the green light to return until Saturday morning.

Shaw’s reaction to the news?

“Smiles,” he said with a big smile.

Shaw, who had been practising with the team all week and was cleared for contact, was hoping he could return to the lineup as early as last Tuesday’s 4-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks at the Bell Centre.

“I’ve also learned when you get older you got to be more patient with things,” Shaw said after Saturday’s morning skate. “I think that’s the thing I’ve been working on. Being patient, listening to others and making sure I’m ready for when I do get the call.”

Shaw said he hasn’t had any symptoms from his injury for about a month, adding: “Just because the symptoms are gone doesn’t mean the injury’s not still there and that’s something we’ve learned over the past. So extra time gives it a chance to heal fully and be ready for the rest of the season and a long playoff run.”

Shaw added: “The main thing was making sure I was healthy and nothing long-term was going to affect me. The staff here made sure I did everything possible to make sure everything was good.”

Shaw has 11-13-24 totals in 36 games this season and was playing some very good hockey before getting injured. In his last 14 games, Shaw had 4-7-11 totals. He will play on a line Saturday night with Max Domi and Tomas Tatar.

“I’m going to bring to them hard work, consistency, try to create some space for them and go to the net,” Shaw said about his line. “I know they’re going to do the same for me. They’re two guys who are going to work hard and compete. They know what it takes to be successful in this league and I think it’s going to be a fun line to be a part of.”

 A chance to move ahead of Leafs

The Canadiens come into Saturday night’s game with a 31-18-6 record and are in third place in the Atlantic Division, one point behind the Maple Leafs (33-17-3), who hold two games in hand. The Canadiens can move ahead of the Leafs in the standings with a regulation-time win.

“I think we’re playing great and I think we’re going to keep growing with it,” Shaw said about the Canadiens, who are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games. “I don’t see signs of us stopping. I think we’re going to keep climbing the standings and building the character and chemistry in the room and push it right into the playoffs.

“Everyone is buying in, everyone wants it and everyone is working hard and competing,” Shaw added. “When you put all those together it’s a dangerous thing to have on a team.”

The lines

Here’s how the Canadiens’ lines and defence pairings looked at Saturday’s morning skate:

Drouin – Danault – Gallagher
Tatar – Domi – Shaw
Lehkonen – Kotkaniemi – Armia
Hudon – Chaput – Deslauriers
Peca – Agostino

Mete – Weber
Reilly – Petry
Kulak – Benn

Domi happy to have Shaw back

Domi, who leads the Canadiens in scoring with 17-30-47 totals, is happy to have Shaw back in the lineup and on his line.

“He looks great out there in practice so it’s going to be nice to have him back out there with the boys,” Domi said after the morning skate. He’s a big part of this team so we’re excited.

“It’s a good team coming in. Obviously, it’s going to be a great game. This is why we play hockey is to play in games like this. So to have a guy like Shawsy, with the character and work ethic he has shift in, shift out, is going to be a huge advantage for us. So it should be a fun one tonight.”

Five straight for Kotkaniemi?

Canadiens rookie Jesperi will be looking to score a goal in his fifth straight game when he faces the Leafs. If he does, Kotkaniemi would become the first 18-year-old to score in five straight games in the NHL since Jordan Staal did it with the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2006-07 season.

Kotkaniemi has 10-17-27 totals for the season and needs 12 more points to tie Mario Tremblay’s record for most points by an 18-year-old with the Canadiens. Tremblay posted 21-18-39 totals in 63 games as a rookie during the 1974-75 season.

Kotkaniemi is only the sixth player in NHL history to score each of his first 10 career goals at home.

Where the Canadiens stand

The Canadiens rank 14th in the NHL in offence, scoring an average of 3.04 goals per game, and 10th in defence, allowing an average of 2.87. They rank 30th on the power play (13.3 per cent), 21st in penalty-killing (79.0 per cent) and 28th in faceoffs (47.7 per cent).

Domi leads the Canadiens in scoring with 17-30-47 totals, followed by Jonathan Drouin (17-29-46), Phillip Danault (11-29-40), Tatar (16-23-39) and Jeff Petry (10-27-37).

Goalie Carey Price, who has a 23-13-4 record with a 2.52 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage, will be looking for his eighth straight win when he faces the Leafs. Saturday’s game will be Price’s 600th in the NHL, making him the first goalie to play that many games with the Canadiens.

During his last seven games, Price has a 1.43 goals-against average and a .955 save percentage. He is the fourth goalie in Canadiens history to have five seven-game win streaks during his career, joining Jacques Plante, Ken Dryden and Michel Larocque.

Where the Leafs stand

The Leafs rank fourth in the NHL in offence, scoring an average of 3.58 goals per game, and seventh in defence, allowing an average of 2.83. They rank 13th on the power play (21.1 per cent), 13th in penalty-killing (80.7 per cent) and second in faceoffs (52.7 per cent).

Mitch Marner leads the Leafs in scoring with 20-45-65 totals, followed by John Tavares (32-26-58), Morgan Rielly (14-39-53), Auston Matthews (24-23-47) and Nazem Kadri (13-19-32). Goalie Frederik Andersen has a 24-11-2 record with a 2.56 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage.

Former Hab Kurvers has cancer

Former Canadiens defenceman Tom Kurvers is battling lung cancer.

Kurvers, who played for both the Canadiens and Maple Leafs, is now an assistant general manager with the Minnesota Wild.

Kurvers was selected by the Canadiens in the seventh round (145th overall) of the 1981 NHL Draft and won the Hobey Baker Award as the best player in U.S. college after posting 18-58-76 totals with the University of Minnesota-Duluth during the 1984-84 season. Kurvers joined the Canadiens the next season and was part of the team that won the 1986 Stanley Cup. He played 659 regular-season games during his NHL career with Montreal, Buffalo, New Jersey, Toronto, Vancouver, the New York Islanders and Anaheim, posting 93-328-421 totals.

Kurvers was diagnosed last month by the Wild’s team doctor after having a cough that wouldn’t go away. The 56-year-old has four children. For now, Kurver’s cancer is inoperable.

“Dr. (Sheldon) Burns said: ‘Tom, I’ve got some very bad news. There’s indications of cancer in your right lung, and I’m very worried,’” Kurvers told Michael Russo of The Athletic. “I spoke to him for a few minutes. You can’t process it. I don’t even know what I said. I remember handing my phone to my wife (Heather). And she wrote some stuff down.

“That night was tough. A no-sleep night. Your mind races. Plenty of dark thoughts. Not all bad. It’s hard to explain. Your brain just starts moving around and you can’t catch up to it.”

Russo reported that Kurvers was recently approved for Tagrisso, a pill-form medication used to treat non-small cell lung cancer.

“Everybody has a story,” Kurvers told Russo. “This is now part of my story. I hope it’s a happy ending. I plan on it being so.”

What’s next?

The Canadiens will have the day off Sunday, then practice Monday (11 a.m.), Tuesday (11 a.m.) and Wednesday (10:45 a.m.) in Brossard before hitting the road for their next three games.

The Canadiens will visit the Nashville Predators Thursday (8 p.m., TSN2, RDS), the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday (7 p.m., SNE, CITY, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio) and the Florida Panthers Sunday (7 p.m., SN, RDS, TSN 690 Radio).

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