Montreal Canadiens' Brandon Prust takes a shot during practice Wednesday, May 28, 2014 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Brandon Prust returns but fellow forward Dale Weise is out and defenceman Alexei Emelin is a game-time decision for the Montreal Canadiens.
The Rangers are without suspended defenceman John Moore, with ex-Hab Raphael Diaz expected to play in his place in the third defensive pairing.
Both teams had lineup issues ahead of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final.
A win and the Rangers can advance to the Stanley Cup final for the first time in 20 years. A loss and New York has to go back to the Bell Centre for a deciding game.
Montreal coach Michel Therrien confirmed after Thursday's morning skate that Weise, flattened by the hit that earned Moore a two-game suspension, would not play. Emelin, who missed Game 5 with an undisclosed injury, did not take part in the morning skate either but was seen on an exercise bike outside the locker-room.
Prust returns from his two-game suspension for breaking Derek Stepan's jaw with a blindside hit in Game 3.
"He's going to be hungry to play," said Therrien. "He's going to play hard. He's excited about playing tonight so we're glad he's back in the lineup."
Weise seemed woozy after the Moore hit Tuesday in Game 5 but returned to action after spending time in the dressing room.
On Thursday, Therrien denied that Weise had a head injury.
Therrien said Weise, who plays in the Habs' third line, told doctors he "felt fine" about finishing the last game. The Montreal coach said player safety is Job 1, but noted that Stepan finished Game 3 with what turned out to be a broken jaw.
"Those are the things that you see at this time of the year," he said. "Right now (Weise) has a body injury so he won't be able to lay tonight."
Asked what specific tests an injured player like Weise has to pass to get back into the game, Therrien essentially said that was up to the team doctors.
"Those are the things I that don't know, because as a coach I never get a concussion," said a smiling Therrien. "But one thing I trust, we trust our medical staff, we trust the doctor. So when they're saying he's good to go. he's good to go."
The Habs are 22-7-4 with Weise in the lineup and 5-4-0 without him.
Goalie Carey Price, knocked out of the series in Game 1, came onto the ice in full gear near the end of the Canadiens skate. He did the same thing earlier this week in Montreal.
Dustin Tokarski, the 24-year-old who has stepped in for Price, did not speak to reporters Thursday. Rangers starter Henrik Lundqvist, given the hook last time out, drew a crowd in front of his stall.
With the Rangers looking to close out the series, the music wafting out of the New York locker-room area earlier at Madison Square Garden was appropriate—"Closing Time" by Semisonic.
"No Canada" was the headline on the back page of the New York Daily News. The kicker read "Rangers: We can't let series go back to Montreal."
The New York Post headline was "Code Blue."
Much has been said about the need to get a good start in the series, with Therrien acknowledging the first 10 minutes of the game are always crucial. "But I'm going to tell you something, the whole entire 60 minutes are going to be really important," he said with a smile.
Vigneault, whose exchange with the English media lasted three and a half minutes, offered no reaction to the league banning Moore for two games. He also did not want to speak about the 7-4 loss in Game 5 in Montreal, saying "We've moved on."
The Rangers coach did say he expected a big game from Lundqvist, who was pulled in the second period last time out after giving up four goals on 19 shots.
"I expect him to play like he always does. He's a great goaltender."
Said Rangers forward Rick Nash: "He's a world-class goalie. He's been our best player all season, all the playoffs."
Therrien's pre-game meeting with the media was equally pithy, lasting just under eight minutes in English and French.