MONTREAL - With Francis Bouillon nursing a sore shoulder, Josh Gorges is getting his chance to play for the Montreal Canadiens.
After playing in only one of the Canadiens first nine games, the 23-year-old defenceman was to start a fourth game in a row on Monday night against the Buffalo Sabres.
"Any time you get in a few games in a row you feel it more," the Kelowna, B.C., native said. "When you sit out for a while, you kind of lose the game speed. You forget what it's like to be out there at that tempo.
"Your timing's better. You see the ice better and when you do that, the game slows down and you're able to make plays."
Bouillon suffered a deep bruise to his left shoulder when he was hit from behind by Penguins defenceman Sergei Gonchar on Oct. 27 in Pittsburgh.
He resumed skating on Saturday and expects to return to the lineup Thursday in Boston.
"When I shoot, it hurts a bit," said Bouillon. "I can control that, but I haven't tested it with contact yet.
"I think we have to wait one more game."
Gorges moved into Bouillon's spot on the third defence pair with Mark Streit.
In the first game after Bouillon's injury, Gorges made a costly gaffe late in the second period as his weak, backhand pass was intercepted and converted into a goal by Atlanta's Slava Kozlov to give the Thrashers a 2-1 lead in a game they eventually won in a shootout.
Since then, his play has improved each game.
"It's fun for us and I think it's fun for him to see that he was able to respond to the mistake he made," said coach Guy Carbonneau. "He got a lot of support from his teammates and the people around him.
"We gave him a chance to come back at it and he took it."
Gorges was acquired from the San Jose Sharks in February along with a first-round draft pick for veteran defenceman Craig Rivet and a fifth-round pick in 2008.
He has become the club's seventh defenceman, playing when other blue-liners are hurt.
Carbonneau had winger Michael Ryder back on the top line with Saku Koivu and Chris Higgins on Monday after demoting him to the fourth line in the third period of a 3-2 loss to Toronto on Saturday night.
"I felt that after two periods he wasn't helping our club and I put him on the fourth line," Carbonneau said of his two-time 30-goal scorer, who has only two so far this season. "Now, he's back on his line and hopefully he'll get the message."