BROSSARD, Que. – Goalie Carey Price and defencemen Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin weren’t on the flight when the Montreal Canadiens left Tuesday to face the Blackhawks in Chicago.
Coach Michel Therrien said he will give the three players a rest ahead of the NHL playoffs.
The Canadiens play Wednesday night in Chicago and return home to face the New York Islanders on Thursday night before ending the regular season Saturday against the New York Rangers.
“At this stage, a lot of players are dealing with little bumps,” said Therrien. “Markov and Emelin play a lot of difficult minutes against the other teams’ best players. They kill penalties. They block shots and get involved physically. This will give some young players a chance to play.”
Therrien did not say whether backup goalie Peter Budaj will start in Chicago. Dustin Tokarski was recalled from AHL Hamilton. Price will start against the two New York teams.
Therrien also would not say if other veterans will be rested this week.
“Most players would rather play than sit out,” he said, adding that there is a fine line between giving players rest and to risking to lose the momentum the team has had in the last three weeks.
Markov’s team-leading run of 137 consecutive games played will end. P.K. Subban will become the new team leader at 122 games.
Subban’s defence partner Josh Gorges is expected to return after missing 15 games following surgery on his left hand, and rookies Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi will both play.
Despite resting key veterans, Therrien said the team was going to Chicago “to win.”
The Canadiens have clinched a playoff spot, but are still battling for home-ice advantage in the first round.
“It gets downplayed before the playoffs, but if it goes to a Game 7, we prefer to play it at home,” said forward Daniel Briere. “With two more wins, we should be OK.”
Injured forwards Brandon Prust and Travis Moen are also out, as is defenceman Douglas Murray who will sit out the last of a three-game suspension for a check to the head.