Bergeron, Cammalleri expected to return to Habs lineup this week


After months of playing catch-up and worrying about other teams holding games in hand, the Montreal Canadiens have a good idea of where they stand.


MONTREAL — After months of playing catch-up and worrying about other teams holding games in hand, the Montreal Canadiens have a good idea of where they stand.

And they have to be happy to know they control their destiny with 10 games to play in the regular season.

The Canadiens are in a virtual tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference as they prepare to play the Ottawa Senators on Monday night.

Montreal, Ottawa and Philadelphia have 79 points each. The Senators and Flyers have an edge because they have 37 wins each to the Canadiens’ 36, but Montreal has been playing better hockey down the stretch and there’s reason to believe the best is yet to come.

The Canadiens are preparing to welcome Michael Cammalleri and Marc-Andre Bergeron back into the lineup. They have been out since early February with knee injuries.

After Saturday’s shootout loss in Toronto, Habs coach Jacques Martin said he expected both players to return this week and it could be sooner rather than later. Bergeron has been pencilled in for a return Monday night, while there were reports Sunday that Cammalleri also has been given the green light and could face the Senators.

Martin gave the team a day off Sunday and will make the final decision on his lineup against Ottawa after the morning skate.

The Canadiens have a 7-1-1 record since the Olympic break without Bergeron and Cammalleri, but they should add some punch to the offence. Cammalleri is the team’s leading goal-scorer with 26 and his return will give the Canadiens a solid top line of Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Kostitsyn and Cammalleri.

Cammalleri will also provide an additional weapon on the power play, which is No. 2 in the NHL but only 5-for-32 since the break.

Bergeron is all about the power play. One of the major complaints in recent weeks has been the inability of the Canadiens to get shots to the net with the man advantage and Bergeron provides an effective shot from the point.

While the Canadiens have been streaking, their immediate rivals have struggled. The Flyers are 3-1-1 in their last five games after being swept by Atlanta in a home-and-home series on the weekend. Ottawa has lost five in a row.

Barring a total collapse, the question of whether the Canadiens will make the playoffs appears moot.

Boston is three points back in eighth place and could make a move because they are the only team in the chase pack which still has a game in hand. But the Canadiens are four points up on the ninth-place Thrashers and eight points ahead of the slumping New York Rangers.

Monday’s game kicks off a busy week for the Canadiens, who play four games in six nights. They are in Buffalo on Wednesday before returning home for games Thursday against Florida and Saturday against the New Jersey Devils.

For a while last week, it appeared that the Canadiens had a chance to overtake the Sabres for the lead in the Northeast Division, but Buffalo beat Carolina 5-3 on Sunday to finish a five-game road trip with a 3-1-1 record. That moved the Sabres nine points ahead of Montreal and Ottawa and they hold a game in hand.

Montreal Gazette
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