As the Montreal Canadiens embark on their annual visit to the western coast of Canada, one important member will be missing from the trip.
On Monday, it was announced that defenseman Shea Weber would be returning to Montreal from Vancouver where the team medical staff will re-evaluate an injured foot that he has dealt with for about a month. It was not determined how long the Canadiens’ assistant captain would be sidelined.
“Shea has a nagging foot injury,” said head coach Claude Julien. “We’ll keep him off the ice until we figure out what is going on.”
Weber’s injury issues began on Nov 22 when he missed the game against the Dallas Stars with a lower-body injury, as it was referred to at the time. Seven games later, Weber was cleared to return to the lineup. Since then, his foot has not healed the way they had expected to. This left the Canadiens with no choice but to shut Weber down for the next little while.
“He’s certainly not confrontable there, so we need to get this solved,” said Julien. “We’re going to send him home and get our doctors to look at him again.”
It was apparent that the injury was hampering Weber’s play, according to Julien. While he did all he could to play through the nagging pain, it was only making it worse.
“In the end, I think the best thing to do is to just shut him down,” said Julien.
Weber’s absence leaves an immense hole in the Canadiens’ lineup. Logging over 25 minutes per game this season, Weber is an asset in all aspects of the game, whether it be at even strength, on the power play where he averages 3:29 minutes per game, or down a man, playing over three minutes per game. Weber is no slouch when it comes to offence, either. Registering six goals, 16 points, and averaging 2.88 shots on goal per game, he is a workhorse for his team.
Weber’s presence will not only be severely missed on the ice, but as one of the team leaders, it will also be missed in the locker room.
“Everybody knows how good [Weber] is,” said Jordie Benn. “Obviously when he’s in the room, his presence is huge. And everybody knows him on the ice, so we’ll see what happens.”
Replacing Weber will not be a task for only one player. Rather, it will be by committee. Having a healthy David Schlemko in the lineup is a luxury that the Canadiens did not have when Weber was injured last month. Jeff Petry will also be counted on in the absence of the team’s number one defenceman. In the seven games that Weber missed after first injuring his foot, Petry averaged over 25 minutes of ice time in all but two of those contests. It can also be expected that Benn, Weber’s partner on the defense’s first line, will step up, as well.
The Canadiens will have their hands full without Weber in the lineup. This week’s schedule consists of three games in five nights, beginning on Tuesday in Vancouver against the Canucks, then to Edmonton for a matchup against the Oilers on Friday, and ending in Calgary on Saturday where they’ll meet the Flames. With only 49 games remaining to earn a playoff spot, these next few games without Weber could seal the fate of the Canadiens this season. Montreal needs all the points they can accumulate from here on out, no matter who is in the lineup, and it must start on this road trip.
“No question he’s a big part of are team. He’s a huge part of our team,” said Carey Price. “But we have to be resilient. We knew we were going to face adversity at different times in the season, and this is no different.