After leaving the Montreal Canadiens’ match-up against the Dallas Stars last week with an upper body injury and sitting out their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, Paul Byron is ready to return. The small, speedy forward took a big hit from Dallas’ Patrick Sharp and was unable to return, but after “a couple days off to let the body recuperate”, head coach Michel Therrien has confirmed that Byron has been cleared to play against the Washington Capitals tonight.
Though it has hardly shown through in the standings, the Canadiens have had their fair share of injuries this season and are happy to have Byron back after just a short absence with Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, Andrew Shaw, and David Desharnais still out of the lineup with injury. Byron is one of the main reasons that their injuries have gone largely unnoticed, as he is enjoying the best season of his career in 2016-17. The 27-year-old winger has scored 23 points in 39 games, already a career-high, and could easily double that mark before the end of the year. After being claimed off of waivers from the Calgary Flames early in 2015-16, Byron has taken his game to the next level in Montreal. Once just a replaceable bottom-six piece, Byron has transformed into one of the most reliable weapons in the Habs’ offense.
With Byron returning to the lineup surprisingly quickly, the Canadiens continue to march toward complete health. Recent news had Galchenyuk and sidelined veteran defenseman Andrei Markov back skating and expected to begin practicing again, while Shaw and Desharnais take steps toward a return as well. With a commanding lead in the Atlantic Division – nine points and three games in hand on the Boston Bruins- the Canadiens can simply tread water for the remainder of the regular season and still wind up with a top-two spot in the Eastern Conference. Only an injury to all-world goalie Carey Price could derail their playoff hopes at this point.