Weber returns as Habs host Hurricanes
The 33-year-old was named captain in October, but has been out of the lineup after undergoing offseason knee and ankle surgery. He practiced with David Schlemko as his partner on Monday, was on the first power-play unit and led the team’s stretch at the end of practice. It will be Weber’s first game in almost a year: his last game was Dec. 16, 2017.
“I feel good. I feel really good,” Weber told the team’s website after practice Monday. “There were a lot of ups and downs. It’s been a long time. It’s been frustrating, it’s been hard, it’s been grueling, but we’re here. I’m excited right now to get going.”
Weber said it’s been hard to watch his teammates without being able to help. The Canadiens are off to a decent start without him with a 11-8-5 record and were holding the second wild card position in the Eastern Conference on Monday. The Canadiens are coming off a 3-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on home ice Saturday and have slipped to 3-4-3 in their past 10 games, so Weber’s return comes at a good time.
“If this was all in the summer, it would be a different story than watching 20 games of your team going to war every night and fighting and battling and not being able to help them,” Weber said. “Obviously, I’m just going to try and keep simple, help out any way I can and hopefully help us move forward.”
Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher said Weber’s return has the players as excited as the Montreal fans.
“It’s going to be a big boost, but I think we’re all excited to watch him play,” said Gallagher on montrealcanadiens.com. “He’s one of the best players in our game for a reason. He has been for a long time. Just as a fan of the game, I think you’re excited to see him back on the ice.”
With Weber’s return, the Canadiens placed defenseman Karl Alzner and his $4.27 million cap hit on waivers. If he clears at noon on Tuesday, as expected, he will be sent to the Canadiens American Hockey League farm team, the Laval Rocket. Alzner is the defenseman less likely to be claimed on waivers because of his contract.
The Hurricanes are coming off a 4-1 loss Saturday to the New York Islanders in Brooklyn, a game in which the Islanders scored on their first two shots of the game. The Hurricanes, who lead the NHL in average shots per game with 39.9, were on their heels against the Islanders and will be looking to change that against the Canadiens.
“We just didn’t come ready to go from the get-go. We knew what they were going to do. We talked about it and had a game plan, but from the first shift on, we didn’t do it at all,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour told NHL.com. “It’s a tough one because we wanted to keep moving forward, but, man, I’ve never seen us play that bad. That was really poor, to a man. Each guy — we didn’t come ready to go, and we got what we deserved.
“We wouldn’t have beat a minor league team. That’s what we looked like out there tonight. I don’t even think they played well. It was a gross game for two periods. They capitalized on mistakes we gave them, and they hunkered down. They knew we weren’t fighting through anything. We made it pretty easy on them.”
The Hurricanes are 4-5-1 on the road.
“It wasn’t there (Saturday). We weren’t ready to show up,” Hurricanes forward Lukas Wallmark told NHL.com. “We win together, and we lose together. … We have to be better than that.”
The Hurricanes called up defenseman Jake Bean and forward Valentin Zykov from the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL on Sunday. If he plays, Bean, 20, will make his NHL debut. He was the Hurricanes first pick (No. 13 overall) in the 2016 NHL Draft. He made his professional debut last spring with the Checkers after a dazzling junior career. The native of Calgary had 196 points (49 goals, 147 assists) in 219 games in the Western Hockey League.
Zykov, 23, returns to the Hurricanes after a conditioning assignment. He had three assists in 13 games with the Hurricanes before being sent to Charlotte.