With their best defenseman now added to an extensive injury list, the Montreal Canadiens will have to rely even more on the NHL's hottest scorer.
Alex Galchenyuk aims to keep his offensive tear going when the Canadiens host the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night without P.K. Subban's services.
Montreal (32-30-6) continued its recent success at Bell Centre with Thursday's 3-2 victory over Buffalo, though the postgame mood was anything but celebratory after Subban was taken off the ice on a stretcher following a collision with teammate Alexei Emelin in the final minutes.
"It was really hard to watch," said captain Max Pacioretty, who suffered a fractured vertebrae in a similar incident in a March 2011 game against Boston. "It was impossible to concentrate after that. All we can do is be supportive. Any time you get an injury to that area, it's very, very scary."
Subban did avoid a major scare, sustaining what the team termed a "non-serious neck injury," and was released from a local hospital late Thursday night.
"Feeling good, and feeling the love. Thanks for all the support!!," he wrote on his Twitter account Friday.
Coach Michel Therrien told the Canadiens' website that Subban will sit out Saturday's contest, ending his streak of 273 consecutive games played. The popular defenseman, who is day to day, last missed a game Jan. 30, 2013.
"Under the circumstances P.K. came out of the situation really well," said Therrien, who added that he's unsure when Subban will return.
Subban joins Jeff Petry, Tom Gilbert and Nathan Beaulieu as Montreal defensemen presently injured, and the Canadiens also remain without star goaltender Carey Price and forward Brendan Gallagher.
They will have a healthy Galchenyuk, who recorded his third consecutive two-goal game Thursday and has amassed 11 of his career-high 25 goals over a torrid eight-game stretch.
Galchenyuk has scored all but three of Montreal's nine goals in the past three games, and the last two were victories. The Canadiens have won three straight only once since the start of December.
Whether Minnesota (31-27-10) can capitalize on the Canadiens' depleted back line remains to be seen. The Wild have just seven goals over their last four games and struggled again offensively in Thursday's 2-1 home loss to Edmonton.
The Wild have lost two straight to fall two points behind Colorado for the Western Conference's final wild-card spot but have played one fewer game.
"We're still in a good spot with games in hand, but we've got to take advantage of that," goaltender Darcy Kuemper said. "The games just keep ticking away, so you don't want to let points slip away.''
Zach Parise did end a nine-game goal drought Thursday but has only three over his last 24 games. Thomas Vanek has no goals and one assist over his past seven.
Jason Pominville has five goals in his last five meetings with Montreal but missed Thursday's loss with a lower-body injury, ending a streak of 231 consecutive games played.
Minnesota should have Devan Dubnyk available after he was scratched against Edmonton with an illness. He had won four straight starts before allowing three goals on 16 shots in just 30:17 in Sunday's 4-2 loss to St. Louis.
Kuemper had 25 saves in Dubnyk's place and registered 24 in a 2-1 home victory over the Canadiens on Dec. 22.
However, the Wild have lost three straight at Bell Centre, where Montreal has won three in a row overall and is 7-0-1 over its last eight.