The Montreal Canadiens are off to an impressive start this season, with Max Domi and Jonathan Drouin leading an improved forward group that have contributed to the team’s 46 goals in 15 games (not counting tonight). Even as the team deals with the long-term recovery of captain Shea Weber, they’ve kept their heads above water with a 8-5-2 record. With Carey Price still not playing at the level he’s capable of, there is plenty of enthusiasm in Montreal.
Unfortunately, that enthusiasm took a hit today when the team released updates on a pair of forwards. Paul Byron, who is dealing with a lower-body injury, will now be evaluated on a week-to-week basis and is out for the foreseeable future. The 29-year old forward, who was signed to a four-year extension at the end of training camp, hasn’t played yet in November and now seems in danger of missing the rest of the month. A key player given his speed and penalty killing ability, Byron has also been one of the team’s best goal scorers at even strength the last two seasons.
Perhaps even worse than the news on Byron is that of Joel Armia, who suffered a knee injury against the New York Rangers on Tuesday night. Armia will be out for six to eight weeks, meaning he very well could be out until after Christmas. Armia had seven points in his first 15 games and had logged time on both the powerplay and penalty kill this season. That versatility will be sorely missed over the next couple of months, especially if Byron can’t come back soon.
Tomas Plekanec, who has played only three games this season, is getting closer to a return but isn’t the type of player who can make a huge impact anymore. What these injuries might mean is another chance for Nikita Scherbak, who has been playing on a conditioning stint in the minor leagues. As CapFriendly noted yesterday, the Canadiens can keep him in the minor leagues for another few days but will have to make a decision on what to do with him at some point. The team already lost Jacob de La Rose when they tried to sneak him through waivers, and wouldn’t want to risk Scherbak to the same fate.
Montreal hasn’t been able to deal with injuries very well over the last few years, but with some added depth thanks to the emergence of Jesperi Kotkaniemi and acquisition of Domi perhaps this season will be a different story.