Mid-season assessments rarely produce any news but there was an exception Thursday when Montreal Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier announced that defenceman Josh Gorges is finished for the season.
“We received some new information today,” said Gauthier, adding that the Canadiens have feared the worst since Gorges’ knee locked during the third period of the Dec. 26 game on Long Island.
While Gauthier said he couldn’t offer detailed information on the injury, he said that Gorges will undergo major reconstructive surgery similar to the operation which ended Andrei Markov’s season.
Gorges averaged more than 21 minutes a game. He was the team’s iron man with 150 consecutive games under his belt when he missed the Dec. 28 game in Washington. A stay-at-home type, Gorges will be missed most on the penalty-killing unit which ranks No. 1 in the National Hockey League.
The Canadiens went into Thursday’s game against Pittsburgh without three of their top four defencemen. The third absentee was Roman Hamrlik, who missed the game with an undisclosed injury. Hamrlik did participate in the morning skate.
While Gauthier will continue to monitor the situation, he said there were no immediate plans to go shopping for a defenceman. The Canadiens’ lineup currently includes rookies P.K. Subban and Yannick Weber and 25-year-old Alexandre Picard, who has played 223 NHL games with five different teams.
“We made a move after Christmas (to pick up James Wisniewski) and then we obtained Brett Festerling, and Mathieu Carle came back quicker than expected (from an upper-body injury),” said Gauthier.
The injuries to Markov and Gorges could create headaches in the future. They are in the final year of their contracts and are eligible to become unrestricted free agents on July 1. Gauthier said he was confident that both players would make full recoveries and be ready for next season but there has to be an element of uncertainty. This is particularly true for Markov, who carries a higher price tag and has had two major reconstruction surgeries in the past eight months.
When the conversation turned to the first half of the season, Gauthier didn’t seem overly concerned about the team’s recent slide.
“Every team has problems like this at some point in the season but everybody — the players, coaches and management — is pulling in the right direction,” said Gauthier.
He said the main concern at this point is the team’s five-on-five play, which was a strong point early in the season. He said he was encouraged the team had 98 shots on goal in its last two games
He expressed confidence Carey Price would get his game back to where it was earlier in the season and also said he was pleased with the special teams.
“They have been excellent all season except for some problems on the power play early in the season,” said Gauthier.