When the seas start washing over the main decks, you reach for something buoyant.

It might just be that the flailing Montreal Canadiens will latch on to a metaphorical life raft in this shred of news: Injured centre Lars Eller skated on his own on Wednesday at the team’s practice facility.

There’s no timetable for the Dane’s return – the impromptu twirl came only six days after a devastating, illegal hit by Ottawa Senators defenceman Eric Gryba – but his mere presence constitutes a boost for a team badly in need of one.

“It’s great news,” head coach Michel Therrien said. “He’s a kid everybody likes.”

Otherwise, the tidings from the Habs’ camp are grim.

Captain Brian Gionta has been ruled out for the year after tearing his left biceps tendon. He will have surgery Friday. Tough guy Brandon Prust will not play in Thursday’s elimination game with the Sens because of an upper-body injury. Ryan White is out for the same reason.

Starting goaltender Carey Price is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body problem, although the fact he couldn’t play the overtime period of Ottawa’s 3-2 comeback win in Game 4 augurs poorly.

But if the good ship CH is about to slip below the surface, its crew members aren’t interested in meekly accepting their fate.

“We have another opportunity [Thursday] to play, and we can beat these guys. We’re better,” defenceman P.K. Subban said .

Precedent suggests the Habs won’t succeed in climbing out of a 3-1 hole (it happens only 8.7 per cent of the time), but several current members of the team – Subban included – remember when they pulled it off in the 2010 playoffs against Washington. Only the Habs are the favourites in this series rather than an unheralded eighth seed, and the Slovak goaltender who looks likely to start Game 5 is Peter Budaj, not Jaroslav Halak.

Though the team is being coy about its choice of starting netminder, Budaj says he’s ready should he be called upon to make his first playoff start.

“We’ll see what the status is tonight and tomorrow with Carey, and we’re going to go from there,” said the veteran backup, who copped to misplaying Kyle Turris’s overtime winner on Tuesday when he came on in relief of Price. “It’s a bad goal, I definitely could have stopped it,” Budaj said.

Despite the mounting injuries and the fact they have a hammerlock on the series, the Senators profess to be taking nothing for granted.

“We’re scared to death, I know that. I know I am,” Ottawa head coach Paul MacLean said.