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Alexei Emelin injured in meaningless loss for Canadiens

Chicago Blackhawks v Montreal Canadiens

MONTREAL, QC - MARCH 14: Alexei Emelin #74 of the Montreal Canadiens prepares to take a shot during the warmup prior to the NHL game against the Chicago Blackhawks at the Bell Centre on March 14, 2017 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-2. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

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While some East teams who’ve already clinched playoff spots still need to secure seeding, the Montreal Canadiens already won the Atlantic Division. They also can’t finish higher than the Metro’s top squad. So these next games are all about staying sharp and not getting hurt.

Now, you can’t rest everyone, but the Canadiens’ most noteworthy loss on Wednesday wasn’t falling 2-1 to the Buffalo Sabres. Instead, it was seeing defenseman Alexei Emelin leave the game with a lower-body injury.

Emelin has his critics, but he’s nonetheless been getting top-four usage under Claude Julien, much like he did with Michel Therrien. So this could mean the loss of a guy who’s important (even if some might argue that he’s sometimes in too prominent of a spot).

The Canadiens also started Carey Price, saw Max Pacioretty log almost 20 minutes and trotted aging veteran Andrei Markov for 23:08.

Are they taking too many risks for a game that cannot move them up or down in the brackets (and against an opponent that’s just closing out its season)? That’s debatable, but the bottom line is that Montreal must keep an eye on Emelin after tonight’s setback.