Brendan Gallagher and Jake Evans’ season is long lost. Neither played past mid-January. And even if they do return to action over the next few days, it will be to play inconsequential games as their team misses the playoffs by a sizable margin.
The energy they displayed Monday morning in training for the Canadiens was not, however, that of athletes who have drawn a line under the 2022-2023 season. Along with Kirby Dach, they took part in their first exercises with the main group in ages. Seeing them wear a dark blue jersey, reserved for players who should not be hit by their teammates, was a reminder that their appearance in the lineup may not be imminent. But with just 12 games to go, their hard work was by no means trivial.
Given the internal policy of the Canadian preventing journalists from meeting injured players, it was impossible to speak with the three ghosts. Who knows if Brendan Gallagher has revealed a state secret about his “lower body” injury? We’ll never know.
“Summer is long,” said Martin St-Louis, however. A sentence that a resident of Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean has never uttered, but that professional hockey players understand perfectly.
“It’s a long process; you train, you prepare for the next season, chained the head coach of the Habs. It’s always easier to prepare when you end on a positive note. »
This positive note, one suspects, will be particularly valuable for Brendan Gallagher, who is dealing with another season of misery.
Two “lower body” injuries have caused him to miss 45 out of 70 games so far. He attempted a brief return to play around the turn of the new year, without success. Until recently, he wore a protective boot on his right foot.
The 30-year-old veteran hasn’t played a full season since 2018-19. In total, over the past four campaigns, he has missed more than 100 games due to injury.
Evans suffered a knee injury on January 14. His return to the skates meets the team’s 8-10 week recovery timeline, which hasn’t been a hallmark of the organization since October. Joel Edmundson and Joel Armia, for example, each missed at least a month of activity wearing the label of a “daily reassessment.” Injured in one foot, Sean Monahan was only to miss a few games. It has been more than three months since he played.
As much for Gallagher as for Evans, nobody would have been really surprised if they had missed all the rest of the season.
However, playing even four or five games can have a major impact, said Jake Allen. Gallagher’s last appearance was on January 3, the keeper noted. “He definitely doesn’t want to wait all summer before playing again,” he added. A few games is better than nothing. You want your legs back, your confidence; reconnect with the speed of the game and put your brain in hockey mode. »
Allen didn’t want to get wet on the possibility of seeing him again in the near future, even though he “looked good” at his first practice. After such a long absence, “you have to practice a few times, otherwise you won’t survive the first period,” he said with a laugh.
Issue 34 was more candid about Kirby Dach, who he says “seems ready to play.”
The organization said of Dach on February 23 that he was suffering from a “non-COVID-19 related illness” with symptoms “related to a lower body injury.” In a recent Sportsnet interview, general manager Kent Hughes said simply that Dach had suffered from an infection.
Whether it’s Dach, Evans or Gallagher, Martin St-Louis recalled that the most important thing for him was to see them (finally) healthy. If, in addition, they offer “a good return, that’s a bonus for them”.
After 9 defeats in the last 10 games, it will be understandable for the coach to take all the help he can.
Kaiden Guhle moved to the Bell Center for the last team photo of the season on Monday, but he did not participate in the Canadiens’ training afterwards. The defender, who missed several weeks of action with a knee injury in January and February, did not play last Saturday in Tampa. He is officially injured in the “lower body”, and he too was reportedly seen with a protective boot. It won’t be known until Tuesday morning if he will play in the game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the evening.