Back in ac­tion

Galchenyuk’s re­turn from in­jury gives Cana­di­ens a nearly full lineup

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY BILL BEA­CON

It ap­pears that the Mon­treal Cana­di­ens plague of in­juries has run its course.

Af­ter David De­shar­nais and de­fence­men An­drei Markov and Greg Pateryn re­turned in the same game one night ear­lier, cen­tre Alex Galchenyuk was back at prac­tice on Wed­nes­day.

That left only right-wing Bren­dan Gal­lagher still in the in­fir­mary, and he is due back soon from a bro­ken hand.

“The last two months was pretty rough health-wise but we were still able to main­tain our qual­ity of play,” said coach Michel Ther­rien, whose club slogged through the last two months with­out sev­eral starters. “That’s good news for us.

“It’s a big boost. We got some guys back and you could feel the en­ergy and con­fi­dence they brought us. Now we’ll get Galchenyuk back, (Jeff) Petry should be fine. Hav­ing them back, there’s no doubt that we ap­proach games with a dif­fer­ent at­ti­tude.”

The Cana­di­ens in­jury woes be­gan in early De­cem­ber when Galchenyuk (knee), De­shar­nais (knee) and Pateryn (an­kle) went down, soon fol­lowed by Markov (groin), for­ward An­drew Shaw (con­cus­sion) and Gal­lagher.

While the team’s tor­rid win­ning pace early in the cam­paign slowed, they man­aged to go 12-8-4 since Dec. 12 to keep a safe lead atop their di­vi­sion.

It’s a huge dif­fer­ence from last sea­son, when a late Novem­ber in­jury to star goalie Carey Price saw them plum­met from first place to miss­ing the play­offs.

“We learned from last year’s ad­ver­sity,” said Ther­rien. “That’s im­por­tant for us.

“We had ad­ver­sity and I don’t think we re­acted the right way. This year we re­acted a lot bet­ter. Our lead­ers did a fan­tas­tic job to main­tain the fo­cus and not get dis­tracted. At the same time we gave young guys an op­por­tu­nity to show what they can do.”

Per­haps the key dis­cov­ery was that Phillip Danault, who was thought to be a check­ing cen­tre, could do a solid job on the first line with cap­tain Max Pa­cioretty and Alexan­der Radulov.

That will let Galchenyuk play his way back to top form on the third unit. Galchenyuk had two goals and two as­sists in five games when he first re­turned on Jan. 14, but then he missed three more games with the same in­jury.

In prac­tice, Galchenyuk skated be­tween Shaw and De­shar­nais, a cen­tre who has been moved to left wing. That line will see its first ac­tion tonight in Philadel­phia.

De­shar­nais scored only his fourth goal of the sea­son in Mon­treal’s 5-2 home win over Buf­falo on Tues­day night.

“We’re look­ing for bal­ance on all our lines,” said Ther­rien “The best ex­am­ple is the Stan­ley Cup win­ner (Pitts­burgh) who have Phil Kes­sel on the third line. They’re tough to play against be­cause of their bal­ance.”

The win over Buf­falo be­gan a string of eight games in 13 days, af­ter which they get their league-man­dated five-game break. Af­ter that, they have a rel­a­tively light fi­nal 24 games of the reg­u­lar sea­son with only a hand­ful of matchups against top teams.

With play­ers com­ing back, oth­ers have to move. De­fence­man Zach Red­mond was sent down ear­lier this week and then Mon­treal ac­quired rear­guard Nikita Nes­terov from Tampa Bay, so Mark Bar­be­rio was placed on waivers.

Petry, who missed the last game with an ill­ness, is ex­pected to re­turn against Philadel­phia.

CP PHOTO

Mon­treal Cana­di­ens’ Alex Galchenyuk (cen­tre) cel­e­brates with team­mates Max Pa­cioretty (left) and Bren­dan Gal­lagher af­ter scor­ing against the Ari­zona Coy­otes in Mon­treal in Oc­to­ber 2016.

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