The Montreal Canadiens suffered a huge blow to their Stanley Cup playoff hopes before Wednesday night's game against the rival Boston Bruins at TD Garden.
The team announced defenseman Shea Weber is expected to be sidelined four to six weeks to recover from an ankle sprain suffered Feb. 4 versus the New Jersey Devils. Six weeks from today brings us to the end of March, and the regular season ends April 4.
It's always difficult to lose one of your best players, especially a top-pairing defenseman of Weber's caliber, but the timing couldn't be more brutal for the Canadiens as we hit the final stretch of the regular season. The Canadiens enter Wednesday seven points out of a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division, and they're eight points behind the second wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference standings.
Weber leads the Canadiens with 24:18 of ice time per game, including a team-leading 3:19 of shorthanded ice time per game. He's also an important member of the team's power play. The 34-year-old defenseman has tallied 34 points (13 goals, 21 assists) in 55 games for the Canadiens this season.
Montreal now has a decision to make ahead of the Feb. 24 trade deadline. Should they sell or look to add a defenseman and make a run for a postseason berth? Recently signed winger Ilya Kovalchuk has played very well for Montreal with a team-leading six goals since his Jan. 6 debut. Kovalchuk would be a solid pickup for any contending team trying to add secondary scoring for the playoffs. The Bruins are one of those teams in need of scoring depth.
The smart decision for the Canadiens at the trade deadline would be to sell or stand pat. The Canadiens have too many teams to climb over in the standings, and even if they earned a spot, it's hard to envision them making a deep playoff run without a vitally important piece of their blue line.