Canadiens’ Gallagher: ‘Slim chance’ of Winter Classic return

P.K. Subban talks about the importance of shot blocking in the game despite the injuries that can be suffered, which includes his teammate and key Habs cog, Brendan Gallagher.

BROSSARD, Que. — Brendan Gallagher was on a seven-game point streak (four goals, five assists) before suffering the first major injury of his NHL career. Considering the in-your-face, crease-crashing, take-a-beating style Gallagher’s played with since making his debut in 2013, it’s amazing it took this long.

On Nov. 22 against the New York Islanders, Gallagher stepped in front of Johnny Boychuk’s thunderous slap shot, fracturing two fingers in his left hand that would require surgery to reset the bones.

Plates and screws were inserted on the next day to keep the bones in place. Then came the prognosis:  Gallagher would be out for six weeks.

Gallagher had appeared in 207 of the 212 games Montreal had played over the last three seasons, and collected 19 points in the team’s first 22 games this season.

Sporting a soft cast on his left hand—having had the hard one removed 10 days after surgery—Gallagher met with the media Monday for the first time since suffering his injury.

“I was beat up pretty bad at the time,” said Gallagher. “It’s a little frustrating not knowing an exact timetable, but rehab, it is what it is. It’s coming along nicely, and I’m trying to get back out there as soon as I can.”

Coming back Jan. 1 would mean an early return for Gallagher, but he wouldn’t rule out playing at Gillette Stadium — where the Canadiens will take on the Boston Bruins in the Winter Classic.

“There’s a very slim chance I’ll be able to get back in there,” said Gallagher. He’s hoping that the help his mother and physiotherapist, Della, provided in his first days post-op will allow him to defy the odds.

Thanks for all the messages of support, I appreciate them all. Luckily I had this amazing lady in town to take good care of me along with a great team of surgeons! I'll get back out there soon #MomsLove

A photo posted by Brendan Gallagher (@bgally.11) on

“The biggest thing for me to get back is the mobility [of the fingers],” said Gallagher. “I don’t think strength will be an issue.”

In his absence, Montreal has gone 3-2-1.

The Canadiens impressed in their first game without Gallagher, beating the New York Rangers 5-1 before splitting back-to-back games with the New Jersey Devils.

After beating Columbus last Monday, Montreal played what forward Lars Eller labelled as “their best game of the season” — a 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals last Thursday that saw the Canadiens dominate in every category but the final score.

“One of the refreshing things about sitting back and watching games — as hard as it is — it helps me realize just how good of a team we have,” said Gallagher. “You watch us play every single night — you just see how effective the guys are. They’re able to step up in different situations; it’s good to see and it just reassures you of the group that we have here.”

That group has the Eastern Conference’s best record (19-6-3) despite having to rely on backup goaltender Mike Condon for 16 starts.

But to say the Canadiens have been flawless of late without starter Carey Price and Gallagher would be stretching the truth.

On Saturday, Montreal lost 3-2 to the Carolina Hurricanes, who entered the game with the NHL’s worst record (9-13-4). It was the team’s third straight game without managing at least three goals after scoring at least that many in 20 of their first 25.

As the team has struggled to score goals, head coach Michel Therrien has been shuffling the forward lines from game to game.

So far, Devante Smith-Pelly, Brian Flynn and Paul Byron have all taken turns in Gallagher’s spot next to Tomas Plekanec.

But those are tough skates to fill.

“I was playing good hockey, hopefully when I get back I’ll pick up where I left off,” said Gallagher. “I’ve got way too much time on my hands. I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos; my fantasy football team is really taking off.”

After Price missed eight games with a lower-body injury earlier this season, he professed to have had “too much Twitter time” on his hands. Gallagher confessed he also may be suffering the same malaise, having gotten into a heated exchange with former NHLer Jim Kyte on Nov. 28.

The Canadiens have another 11 games between Monday and Gallagher’s possible return on New Year’s Day.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.