Canadiens lose Galchenyuk (again) to knee injury just as others approach a return

By The Canadian Press
January 23, 2017 - 10:45am

BROSSARD, Que. — Just as some injured Montreal Canadiens were nearing a return, centre Alex Galchenyuk has gone back to the infirmary.

While coach Michel Therrien said the latest injury to Galchenyuk's right knee does not appear to be serious and that his condition is listed as day to day, he missed practice on Monday and won't play against the visiting Calgary Flames on Tuesday night. 

Galchenyuk took a hit in the second period of a 3-2 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night but was able to stay in the game. The night before, he had three points in a 3-1 victory in New Jersey and looked to be back on form after missing 18 games from Dec. 6 to Jan. 14.

Now he has re-injured the same knee.

"I liked the way he played against New Jersey, he was really involved in the game at both ends of the ice," said Therrien. "Then it was his first back to back games since his injury, (when) it's a bit tougher, and he got hurt during that game."

The Canadiens were hoping their run of injuries was starting to let up when Galchenyuk and Andrew Shaw, who had missed 14 games with a concussion, returned last week against Minnesota.

The next to come back — perhaps after this weekend's all-star break — should be defenceman Andrei Markov, who has missed 17 games with a groin injury, and centre David Desharnais, out 22 games so far with a bad knee.

Defenceman Greg Pateryn, who has missed 22 with a broken ankle, has started skating again while right-winger Brendan Gallagher, out nine games with a fractured left hand, is looking to return in about two weeks. Gallagher skated with the other injured players for the first time on Monday with a stick with no blade, to prevent him from trying to shoot and risk re-injuring the hand.

It has been a difficult period for the Atlantic Division-leading Canadiens with a handful of AHL call-ups in the lineup, but they managed to go 7-6-3 in a run of 16 games from Dec. 22 to Jan. 21, including 11 on the road.

Like most NHL clubs, the compressed schedule caused by the World Cup of Hockey in September and the five-day mid-season break each team was given has taken a physical toll.

"We're missing some guys but it's normal, it's part of hockey," said winger Alexander Radulov, "We have to regroup and be ready.

"Everyone is on the same schedule. Some teams will hit it later in the season. But I won't lie to you, it's tough for all the teams. Since December, we've been playing nearly every second day, with some back to backs."

There is some rest on the horizon. After Calgary, they play the Islanders in New York on Thursday just before the all-star break. Then they play eight games in 13 days before their turn for a five-day break finally arrives. 

"It's depth, the way we've been able to maintain our quality of play even with guys out of the lineup," said Therrien. "We strick to our structure and our team concept and that's really important."

The hardest part for Therrien has been finding time to practice. Games are so frequent that having players get proper rest is the priority and it leaves little time to make adjustments.

It has led to some bizarre games. The Canadiens have posted wins of 10-1 and 7-4 this season, and lost games 10-0 and 7-1. Other teams have had similar blowouts.

"Some coaches have spoken out about it and I support a bit what the other coaches are saying," he said. "As coaches, we want our players to be at their maximum for games, physically and mentally.

"You can't work with your team. With this kind of schedule, with really busy segments, it makes our jobs a bit tough. I think this is going to be re-evaluated at the end of the season for the good of the game. There are some crazy games with scores of 7-6 or 8-7. Sometimes there's not a lot of intensity or there are a lot of mental mistakes."

With Galchenyuk out, Bryan Flynn should move into his spot on the third line with Shaw and Sven Andrighetto. Galchenyuk had been dropped from the first line to help him get back on form after his injury. Philip Danault has been centring the top unit with Radulov and Max Pacioretty.

Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press

Vancouver Whitecaps sign Peruvian international striker Yordy Reyna