Preview: Key veterans return as Als host Lions on Saturday night

The Alouettes will look to get back to their winning ways on Saturday night, as they’ll take on the B.C. Lions for the second time this season. The Als dropped a 35-19 decision in Vancouver on July 9th.

Despite last week’s loss in Winnipeg, the Alouettes have managed to win four of their last five outings, including two against West Division opponents (Calgary and Saskatchewan).

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Here’s what you need to know about Saturday’s game:

Key veterans return:

The Alouettes have been hit hard by the injury bug, but they finally received some good news this week, as a pair of veterans will be back in the lineup.

Receiver Greg Ellingson will be making his Als debut on Saturday night. He missed most of training camp, the preseason and the first 10 games of the regular season with a lower-body injury.

In his first nine CFL seasons, the 34-year-old has amassed an impressive 587 receptions for 8,550 yards and 45 touchdowns while playing for Hamilton, Ottawa, Edmonton, and Winnipeg. In eight games with the Blue Bombers in 2022, he finished with an impressive 38 receptions, 598 yards and three touchdowns.

“It’s good to be back,” Ellingson admitted on Tuesday. “I still have leadership to give in the meeting room. I’ve talked to the guys and given my input on how I see things because I’ve been around so long. I’m happy to be out there. I’m happy to practice today and I’m looking forward to the game.”

On the defensive side of the ball, the Als will be welcoming back defensive back Ciante Evans.

The 30-year-old got off to an incredible start in 2023, as he registered three interceptions in his first two games, but he’s been out of the lineup with a lower-body injury since July 1st. Despite missing eight games, he is still tied for fourth in the CFL in interceptions.

Evans will enter the starting lineup for Wesley Sutton, who suffered an upper-body injury against the Bombers last Thursday.

Offensive lineman Philippe Gagnon (upper body) and receiver Cole Spieker (practice roster) will also enter the lineup. Gagnon will serve as a backup guard while Spieker will enter the starting lineup.

The Lions (7-4):

The Lions will come into this game having lost each of their last two outings, as they dropped decisions to the Roughriders and Tiger-Cats over the last two weeks.

Lions quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. will take on the Alouettes for the third time since being traded to B.C. on Aug. 31, 2022, but this will be his first start in Montreal since that deal.

“I spent seven years there,” Adams Jr. said this week. “It’s definitely special (to go back). I love the city.

“(The Alouettes) defence has gotten better each week. Last week was different. They were on a short week and travelling and things like that. They’re going to be well-rested, and we know what they bring. They’re a bend but don’t break type of defence. They’ll try to keep everything in front.”

Former Alouettes defensive lineman David Menard, who has two quarterback sacks in 11 games this season, will also be taking on his former team in his home province.

Fellow Quebec-born defensive end Mathieu Betts will also be returning to the city in which he was born. The 28-year-old has a league-high 12 quarterback sacks through the first 11 games of 2023.

Honouring Legends:

We’re roughly two weeks away from Canadian Football Hall of Fame weekend in Hamilton, Ontario, so the Alouettes are taking the opportunity to honour five of their alumni who will be inducted this year.

At halftime of Saturday’s game, the Als will pay tribute to former offensive linemen Josh Bourke and Lloyd Fairbanks, defensive end John Bowman (now the defensive line coach in B.C.), coach Jacques Dussault, and fullback, president, and CFL commissioner Larry Smith.