MONTREAL — Nothing illustrates the Montreal Canadiens season quite like the team picture taken Monday morning at the Bell Centre.
There were 31 players in the photo, and only about half of them were among the 23 players in a similar picture taken at the start of the campaign.
“I think the whole back row was in St. John’s at one point this year,” said defenceman Nathan Beaulieu, referring to the Canadiens American Hockey League affiliate. “It’s pretty nuts.
“But it’s nice to see guys getting an opportunity. Over the last couple of years I needed opportunities like that. Especially, watching (P.K.) Subban go down, I think we had two defencemen that started the year with us the last couple of games.”
A few newcomers were acquired through trades or waivers, including goalie Ben Scrivens, defenceman Victor Bartley and forwards Phillip Danault, Lucas Lessio and Mike Brown, but most were call-ups from St. John’s. Some were called up to replace players who had previously been called up, only to join the growing injury list.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” added Beaulieu. “There are about 12 guys in the therapy room every day. It’s not fun.”
Those 23 players photographed in October started the season with a team-record nine-game winning streak. They were 19-4-3 and in top spot overall on Dec. 1 when the loss of star goaltender Carey Price (lower body) seemed to throw the entire team off kilter.
They have gone 13-27-3 since then as more injuries occurred, ending the seasons of defencemen Tom Gilbert and Jeff Petry, among others.
Only three players — Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk and Tomas Plekanec — have played all 69 games this season. Subban missed his first game in three seasons on Saturday and will sit out at least back-to-back games Tuesday and Wednesday against Florida and in Buffalo.
The flashy defenceman suffered what the team called a “non-serious” neck injury when he was carried off the ice on a stretcher in game Thursday at the Bell Centre after a collision with teammate Alexei Emelin. Centre Lars Eller, who sat out with a flu, also is not expected back, even though he skated on his own.
Beaulieu practised with the team for the first time since he suffered a suspected right knee injury on Feb. 23. He may be back Tuesday or Wednesday.
Despite the injury woes, he said the Canadiens have not thrown in the towel with 13 games left to play.
“I know we’re on the outside looking in right now but there’s still pride,” he said. “We’re not mathematically out yet. Everyone wants to get back in and help the team.”
But it has been a test for Pacioretty in his first season as captain.
“At the beginning of the year it looked like we’d never have a call-up and the next thing you know, it seems like every day we’re calling up someone new,” said Pacioretty. “There’s an opportunity for people and you have to make the best of it.
“Hopefully, all those players can help the depth of this organization for a long time, so it’s good for them to get their feet wet and feel like an NHLer. If being in a team picture makes them feel more comfortable around here, that could help as well.”