The struggling Montreal Canadiens are set to receive a major boost, with head coach Claude Julien telling reporters that captain Shea Weber could return for next Tuesday's game against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Weber required offseason knee surgery and was initially ruled out to be up until mid-December, but he'll wind up returning two weeks earlier than expected. He was limited to 26 games last season with a foot injury and last played on Dec. 16 in a road game against the Ottawa Senators.
So after a year without their top defencemen, the Canadiens finally have him back. Weber was named captain in the offseason, replacing Max Pacioretty following the latter's trade to the Vegas Golden Knights.
Weber's return comes at a much-needed time for the Habs, who've only hung around in the playoff race because of their surprisingly potent offense. Goalie Carey Price is enduring his worst season thus far, with a 7-5-4 record, woeful .895 save percentage and even more horrid 3.17 goals against average.
Despite the struggles in their own end of the ice (especially in net), the Canadiens sit at 11-7-4 on the season, good enough to hold the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Montreal is also just five points behind the Atlantic Division-leading Tampa Bay Lightning.
Weber had 10 points in 26 games last season. The year before, he scored 17 goals and 42 points in his first season with the Habs, leading them to the Atlantic Division title. He has 501 career points in 867 games.
What This Means
The Canadiens have played above expectations through the first month of the season. With Weber returning and Price due to turn it around eventually, the Habs have a chance to make even more noise in the Eastern Conference.
Though Price has endured a bad start to the season, much of it can be attributed to the terrible defensive play in front of him. Weber promises to bring that when he returns next week.