TAMPA, Fla. – Brandon Prust was so excited the morning of Game 1 he couldn’t help pacing around the dressing room.
“Playoffs starting, so the heart’s pumping,” Prust said. “This is a brand new season. Everything is stepped up a notch. You’re not really sure what happens, but something goes in the brain where it’s an all-out war.”
Prust will be part of that all-out war Wednesday night as the Montreal Canadiens begin their Atlantic Division semifinal series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He’s good to go after missing almost a month with a shoulder injury.
“He’s got good two practices with our team, he’s excited and we’re all excited that he’s back in our lineup,” coach Michel Therrien said. “He’s a leader, he’s a tough guy to play against. He’s got speed and the most important thing: he’s a gamer.”
Where Prust will play in the Habs’ lineup is not clear, even though he practised on a line with Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Plekanec on Tuesday. There were no line rushes in the morning skate at Tampa Bay Times Forum, and Therrien said everyone would have to wait until warm-ups to see his combinations.
Prust, who missed the final 12 games of the regular season, wasn’t telling if he’d stick with Gallagher and Plekanec.
“I can’t let you in on a secret, you might tell the other guys,” Prust said with a smile. “I think that’s maybe what we start with, but who knows? I tend to be a bit of a rover in the lineup, so I can end up anywhere. It doesn’t matter to me. I just got to go out and do my job, whoever I’m playing with.”
If those three are together, Therrien could try to get that line up against Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Steven Stamkos as much as possible, even though the Habs don’t get the last line change.
That means all 12 forwards, a group that Therrien confirmed will include Michael Bournival, must be prepared.
Prust is ready.
“We’re going to go out and we got four lines that can play against any one of their lines,” Prust said. “If you go out against the top line, you have to be aware and everybody has to be aware defensively and obviously aware of Stamkos. He’s one of the best players in the league. Whoever’s out against him you have to be careful.”
NOTES—Carey Price will make his 31st Stanley Cup Playoffs start Wednesday night. The Habs goalie is 9-17 with a 2.90 goals-against average and .905 save percentage. … Montreal’s top line of Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais and Thomas Vanek took the morning skate off, but all three are expected to play. … Therrien said defenceman Francis Boullion will play.
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