Shea Weber

Shea Weber injury a huge blow to Canadiens ahead of NHL trade deadline

Shea Weber injury a huge blow to Canadiens ahead of NHL trade deadline

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.

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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.

Haggerty: How can the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry be revived?

NHL Top 10: Who are the league's best defensemen right now?

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USA TODAY Sports photo

NHL Top 10: Who are the league's best defensemen right now?

Being an NHL defenseman is not an easy task. There are the obvious responsibilities at the defensive end where these players must block shots, win battles, break pucks out cleanly and efficiently and keep the puck out of their net at all costs. 

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Then there are the requirements for the truly special D-man that also impacts the game at the offensive end. That's what separates John Carlson, Roman Josi and Alex Pietrangelo from the run-of-the-mill NHL defensemen. The top four or five names on this list should be the names you see on the Norris Trophy ballots as they check off just about every box and that makes them the league's best defensemen right now.

NHL Positional Rankings: Ranking the league's top 10 defensemen

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

NHL Positional Rankings: Ranking the league's top 10 defensemen

Look at the NHL's top five scorers this season and you'll see that it includes two pairs of teammates — Edmonton's Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, along with the Bruins' Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

All of those players are also forwards, but the player occupying the No. 5 spot is a defenseman: Washington's John Carlson.

The Massachusetts native has racked up 36 points so far this season, and he's already more than halfway to last year's career-high total of 70.

While the offensive numbers are eye-popping, do they add up to him being the top blueliner in the league?

Click here for Joe Haggerty's ranking of the Top 10 defensemen in the NHL right now.>>>>>

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