Stu Cowan: Canadiens Appear Jinxed After Losing Galchenyuk, Desharnais
As the media waited for coach Michel Therrien to arrive for his post-game news conference Tuesday night at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, three Canadiens players were busy working out in a makeshift gym in a nearby room.
Andrei Markov was sweating profusely on a stationary bike, Alexander Radulov was doing bicep curls with some very large dumbbells and Daniel Carr was dead-lifting what looked like a very heavy bar.
This was after the game and before heading to the airport for a flight back to Montreal after a long, five-game road trip that ended with a 2-2-1 record for the Canadiens following a 3-2 overtime loss to the Blues.
Maintaining a body to survive the rigours of an 82-game NHL season is hard work — most of which fans and even the media never see. The fact any player can survive to play all 82 games is remarkable. Only four Canadiens players did it last season — Markov, Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec and Alex Galchenyuk.
Galchenyuk’s iron-man streak of 130 consecutive games played came to an end Tuesday and the Canadiens announced Wednesday it will be 6-8 weeks before he plays again because of a knee injury suffered last Sunday in Los Angeles. Galchenyuk will have company in his rehab because the Canadiens also announced David Desharnais will be out for the same 6-8 weeks with a knee injury suffered Tuesday night against the Blues.
Unlike last season when Carey Price suffered his mysterious “lower-body” injury on Nov. 25 that ended his season, the Canadiens came clean this time announcing that both Galchenyuk and Desharnais suffered knee injuries, shutting down rumours and speculation.
The Canadiens have now lost their top two centres and the No. 1 spot between Pacioretty and Radulov will likely go to Plekanec, who has played in a team-leading 196 consecutive games, followed by Markov with 111. Plekanec scored his second goal of the season Tuesday night, ending a 13-game drought, and has only 2-7-9 totals in 26 games. Not exactly first-line centre numbers.
The Canadiens called up forward Sven Andrighetto from the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps Wednesday and sent down defenceman Mark Barberio, meaning Nathan Beaulieu is likely to return to the lineup Thursday at the Bell Centre against the New Jersey Devils (7:30 p.m., SN360, RDS, TSN Radio 690). Beaulieu missed the last six games after taking a puck to the neck. Injured forward Charles Hudon was also assigned to the IceCaps.
Like I said, it’s amazing any player can survive all 82 games no matter how much work they do on or off the ice to prepare their bodies. Sometimes it’s just a case of bad luck and the Canadiens appear jinxed right now.
They might want to put some bubble wrap on Price.
The good news for the Canadiens is that they had an NHL-best 17-6-3 record after Tuesday’s OT loss and a .500 record the rest of the way would give them 93 points — exactly as many as it took to make the playoffs last season in the Eastern Conference.
The knee injuries to Galchenyuk and Desharnais shouldn’t be as devastating to the Canadiens as the one Price suffered last year — which basically wiped out their season — but it won’t be easy going forward without a legitimate No. 1 centre and GM Marc Bergevin won’t be dealing from a position of strength if he goes shopping to find help down the middle.
While off-ice workouts are one way to keep a body in shape for the NHL season, rest is also an important factor. Wednesday’s day off was the second in three days for the Canadiens after Therrien cancelled Monday’s scheduled practice in St. Louis. Cancelling practices has become a common occurrence this season with Therrien and his players certainly appreciate it.
“That’s the trend in the NHL right now,” Pacioretty said after Tuesday’s morning skate. “Chicago, I think, is the one that might have started it. You hear buzz around the league and guys who went there at the trading deadline (last season) said that throughout the playoffs and the rest of the regular season (after they were acquired) they didn’t even practise as a team one time. Rest is a weapon, especially when you’re travelling a lot.”
Brendan Gallagher also appreciated the day off Monday, saying: “You’re just trying to save the body whenever you can.”
Therrien has made it clear he wants to limit Price to 60 games this season, which is a great decision and a big reason why Al Montoya played Tuesday night. Doing everything possible to keep Price fresh and healthy should have been the Canadiens’ No. 1 priority coming into this season and now it becomes even more important.
The 82-game NHL season is a brutal grind for everyone.