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Erik Černák returns to Lightning lineup

Andrei Vasilevskiy is expected to start against Montréal on Saturday.
DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak (81) disrupts an offensive charge by San Jose Sharks left wing Marcus Sorensen (20) during the second period of Saturday's (1/19/19) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the San Jose Sharks at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak (81) disrupts an offensive charge by San Jose Sharks left wing Marcus Sorensen (20) during the second period of Saturday's (1/19/19) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the San Jose Sharks at Amalie Arena in Tampa.

TAMPA - Erik Černák will return to Saturday’s lineup as the Lightning take on the Canadiens to finish off its home stand.

Černák was one of 10 players on the ice for the optional morning skate. He’s missed two games with a lower-body injury, but has fully participated at all of the morning skates and practices since missing Tuesday’s game.

Andrei Vasilevskiy is expected to start in goal Saturday against Montréal. Louis Domingue was one of the last players off the ice Saturday morning after working with the presumed scratches, which include Ryan Callahan, Braydon Coburn and Danick Martel.

The matchup

When coach Jon Cooper listed off the tough teams the Lightning will be facing in the upcoming weeks, Montréal was one of them.

“The coach [Claude Julien] has been there before, done that, and he knows how to win in this league,” Cooper said after the morning skate. “I think when [Shea] Weber came back that was a big boost for them. So you have the presence on the back end, the leadership and stuff like that. That’s why they’re where they are and why they give teams fits every night.”

Weber missed almost two months to start the season recovering from foot and knee surgeries, which forced the defenseman to miss the first matchup against the Lightning on Nov. 3, which ended in a 4-1 win for Tampa Bay. His presence made the Dec. 29 matchup a tighter one, but it still wasn’t enough to stop the Lightning from securing a 6-5 win at home.

He’s known for his hard shot at the blue line and the Lightning knows it. Yanni Gourde said the team won’t change how it plays for Weber, but does have to be aware of and respect that shot.

“Obviously he helps their defensive course so much,” Callahan said. “His shot, the way he defends, his size, but I think the biggest thing is trying to close that gap. When he’s shooting the puck he has such a hard shot and if he has some space and room to shoot, he’s pretty dangerous with it.”

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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