An upper-body injury suffered by Dale Weise in the Classic threw a wrench in that plan.
Weise will miss the next two to three weeks after he was struck by teammate P.K. Subban’s shot in the second period of last Friday’s game. He joins goaltender Carey Price and defenceman Tom Gilbert on Montreal’s injured reserve list.
The Canadiens, who got Brendan Gallagher back for the Classic after fractures to two fingers on his left hand put him out of action for five weeks, had struggled mightily in the final months of 2015 to remain healthy.
Forward Torrey Mitchell missed 11 games from Nov. 19 to Dec.15 after getting off to the best start of his career with five goals and five assists in his first 20 games. Defenceman Alexei Emelin missed two weeks in November and defenceman Jeff Petry missed two games in December with an upper-body injury.
Forward Devante Smith-Pelly was sidelined with a lower-body injury when Gallagher went down Nov. 22. He came back for Montreal’s next game, replaced Gallagher on Tomas Plekanec’s line with Max Pacioretty, and scored two goals in a 5-1 win over the New York Rangers on Nov. 25.
After four more games in Montreal’s lineup, Smith-Pelly was back on the sidelines.
“It was a nagging injury I was playing with,” said Smith-Pelly after Sunday’s practice. “I don’t think I rushed back, but it kept nagging me.”
Smith-Pelly’s return to Montreal’s lineup on Dec. 22 after missing 18 days was short-lived. He played that night in Minnesota before having his ice-time reduced to 8:37 in Montreal’s next game against Washington on the Dec. 26.
After sitting out Montreal’s last three games as a healthy scratch, Smith-Pelly is likely to get the first chance at replacing Weise on David Desharnais’ line with Tomas Fleischmann.
“I talked to [Canadiens coach Michel Therrien] and it’s just about getting back to playing how I was before my injury,” said Smith-Pelly. “It’s just about getting in on the forecheck, making plays. I guess when I came back he didn’t see enough of that. So I was out again.”
Therrien will also need to see some scoring potential from Smith-Pelly if the six-foot forward is going to be effective in Weise’s spot.
Weise, Montreal’s second-leading goal-scorer, had already attained a career-best 11 goals in 40 games before getting injured.
Smith-Pelly has just three goals in 28 games this season whereas Montreal forward Sven Andrighetto has four in 14 games.
Andrighetto, who was sent down to the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps when Gallagher was activated, was recalled to the Canadiens on Saturday.
The Canadiens will practice again on Monday before traveling to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers on Tuesday.
A win would give them a record of 3-5-0 on the longest road trip of their season.
The Canadiens then return home to play the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday.