MONTREAL — The Canadiens are expecting to get a gritty role player back in their lineup for Thursday’s Game 4 at the Bell Centre. The Bruins are happy not to have lost one of theirs.
Veteran forward Jeff Halpern, who has yet to play in this series with a lower-body injury, is expected to play Thursday for Montreal.
“There’s probably a pretty good chance that Jeff will be in the lineup [Thursday night],” Montreal coach Jacques Martin said after the club’s morning skate.
“What Jeff brought to our organization this year is experience, leadership, a good player away from the puck and also contributed [offensively] in a real good stint on a line with [Tomas] Plekanec and [Michael] Cammalleri and could help out in the faceoff circle at times,” Martin added.
Halpern will likely take the place of forward Benoit Pouliot, who found himself in Martin’s doghouse on Monday after taking an undisciplined penalty with a run at Johnny Boychuk. That hit also drew the ire of Andrew Ference, who immediately dropped the gloves with Pouliot.
Martin, however, would not confirm who would be scratched in favor of Halpern.
“I don’t want to discuss who’s not in, who’s out,” Martin said. “We have extra players. Some of them are nursing some injuries, so a lot of those decisions are made at game time.”
The Bruins won’t have to wait as long for one of their key decisions. Boston will be looking to pull even in their opening-round series with Montreal, and the Bruins will be able to do that with Chris Kelly remaining in the lineup. Kelly suffered a facial injury when driven headfirst into the Montreal net in Monday’s Game 3 and returned to Boston between games for further evaluation.
No fractures were found and Kelly was back on the ice for Thursday’s morning skate. He’ll wear a full cage for protection, but won’t miss any time.
“He’s ready to go and he’s going to be in the lineup,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “That’s as plain as I can put it.”
With Kelly cleared to play, there aren’t any changes expected in Boston’s lineup. That would leave Tyler Seguin a healthy scratch once again up front, along with Jordan Caron and Jamie Arniel, Shane Hnidy and Matt Bartkowski on defense and spare goalie Anton Khudobin, who has been practicing with the team.
Projected Bruins lines
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Mark Recchi
Chris Kelly-Rich Peverley-Michael Ryder
Daniel Paille-Greg Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Dennis Seidenberg
Tomas Kaberle-Adam McQuaid
Andrew Ference-Johnny Boychuk
Scratches: Tyler Seguin, Shane Hnidy, Matt Bartkowski, Jordan Caron, Jamie Arniel, Anton Khudobin
Projected Canadiens lines
Michael Cammalleri-Tomas Plekanec-Andrei Kostitsyn
Mathieu Darche-Scott Gomez-Brian Gionta
Travis Moen-Lars Eller-Jeff Halpern
Tom Pyatt-David Desharnais- Ryan White
Roman Hamrlik-James Wisniewski
Hal Gill-P.K. Subban
Jaroslav Spacek-Brent Sopel
Scratches: Paul Mara, Yannick Weber, Benoit Pouliot, Alexandre Picard (lower body)