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Canadiens Notebook: Jonathan Drouin, Brendan Gallagher close to return

Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin skates with the puck during NHL game against the San Jose Sharks at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Oct. 24, 2019.
Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin skates with the puck during NHL game against the San Jose Sharks at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Oct. 24, 2019.

The Canadiens’ Jonathan Drouin and Brendan Gallagher would both love to return to the lineup against the Sabres Thursday in Buffalo (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) but that remains uncertain.

Drouin and Gallagher took part in the Canadiens’ full practice Tuesday morning in Brossard and they are no longer wearing no-contact jerseys. Drouin hasn’t played since having wrist surgery on Nov. 18, while Gallagher has missed 10 of the last 11 games since suffering a concussion.

“I don’t know,” Drouin said when asked if he could play Thursday. “We’ll see how it goes and figure that out.”

When Gallagher was asked the same question, he answered: “I can’t really give you guys an answer. I’m sure Thursday morning I’ll be able to take pregame skate and maybe a decision will be made then. But until then it’s really day-by-day and just go from there.”

Drouin had 7-8-15 totals in 19 games before he was injured, while Gallagher has 15-17-32 totals in 41 games.

The Canadiens have a 22-22-7 record following Monday night’s 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals at the Bell Centre and their playoff hopes are all but gone with 31 games left in the season. The Canadiens have had 13 player injuries this season and have lost 130 man games as a result. Last season, they had 22 player injuries and 160 man games were lost.

Max Domi (flu), Artturi Lehkonen (flu), Marco Scandella (therapy day) and Carey Price (off-ice workout) didn’t take part in Tuesday’s practice.

“It’s been a while since we’ve really been healthy all together,” Gallagher said. “It’s a hard situation here. We need all the bodies we can get. So hopefully Jo’s getting closer and closer, the sick guys get healthy and then we can see what we’re capable of. Obviously, on paper it looks like you could be a special group, but it’s just on paper. I think you got to see results. For us I think you put that pressure on ourselves to go out there and get the job done and prove everyone right who’s saying that.”

One-goal losses hurt

Seventeen of the Canadiens losses this season have been by one goal, including seven in overtime or shootouts.

“It’s tough,” Gallagher said. “All these one-goal games, it’s just one of those things where it’s really easy to sit here and say we got to find a way to win them. But finding those solutions in the game is the hard part and that’s a challenge that our group has. Little differences in games, these little things, these little details in your game can make a huge difference going forward and I think right now we’re just finding ourselves on the wrong end of these tight games.

“You can say you’re doing some good things and doing some bad things,” Gallagher added. “It just seems like right now guys were on a little bit of a streak there, but going forward here the rest of the year we just got to find ways to win these tight games and do a little bit more and a little bit extra and find a way to be on the other side of these things.”

Tough to watch

Drouin has spent more time watching the Canadiens on TV than playing this season, which hasn’t been easy.

“It’s easy to watch the hockey on TV and say you could make that play there,” Drouin said. “But as long as you’re not on the ice and you’re not feeling what the game is like it’s hard to really comment and say we lost this game because of this or that. It’s really hard when you’re sitting out and you’re not on the ice, you don’t really contribute to anything. You don’t have a say or an action you could do to make a difference. We had some streaks where we lost a lot of games and it’s hard to sit there and watch and not be able to do anything. But we got to come back to just the way we were playing. Skating and when we’re playing well we’re not sitting back, we’re usually around that puck and we’re chasing the game.”

Trade winds starting to blow

The NHL trade deadline is Feb. 24, so there will be a lot of talk concerning what Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin will or won’t do before then.

There are three Canadiens on TSN’s Trade Bait list of 20 players. Ilya Kovalchuk is listed at No. 3, behind New York Rangers left-winger Kris Kreider and Los Angeles Kings defenceman Alec Martinez, while Marco Scandella is No. 18 and Jeff Petry is No. 20. Tomas Tatar is another name being mentioned in trade speculation.

Dale Weise has been traded three times during his career before the NHL trade deadline and said the speculation can be very hard on the players’ families.

“It’s easier for you because you get traded, you instantly got 20 friends,” Weise said after Monday’s morning skate. “Hockey culture is so easy. You go to a new team, it’s kind of the same routine and you got 20 new guys that are your friends instantly. It’s a lot harder for kids leaving their friends and having to go in and be the new kid. It’s hard for your wife … you leave and you live in a hotel for a little bit. It’s not a fun time. Very stressful. It’s a tough time of year for that.”

Weise added that the key for players is to try and tune out the noise surrounding the trade deadline.

“Don’t read social media, don’t watch TV,” he said. “Don’t watch all the experts on TV because let’s call a spade a spade. People get on TV and want to say things that actually sell and people want to watch. Do your best to not read stuff like that and just try to stay in the moment. As a young guy it’s kind of hard to do that but as an older guy you just kind of appreciate every moment. Just speaking for myself, you appreciate every moment in the NHL. It’s a great lifestyle. We get to do a lot of great things that a lot of people don’t get to experience.”

Weise, 31, played in his 500th career NHL regular-season game Monday night against the Capitals and scored his first goal of the season in 10 games with the Canadiens.

The lines

Here’s how the forward lines and defence pairings looked at Tuesday’s practice:

Tatar – Danault – Gallagher
Kovalchuk – Suzuki – Armia
Drouin – Kotkaniemi – Cousins
Poehling – Thompson – Weise/Weal

Chiarot – Weber
Kulak – Petry
Mete – Fleury

With Price skipping practice, the Canadiens called goalie Karel St. Laurent to take his place. St. Laurent played in the QMJHL and with the McGill Redmen and now plays for the Jonquière Marquis in the LNAH.

What’s next?

The Canadiens will practise 10:45 a.m. Wednesday in Brossard before travelling to Buffalo to face the Sabres Thursday night (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM). Friday will be a day off for the Canadiens before their annual Super Bowl weekend matinee games at the Bell Centre against the Florida Panthers on Saturday (2 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday (2 p.m., SN1, SNE, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

Next week, the Canadiens will play the Devils in New Jersey on Tuesday (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) before back-to-back home games against the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) and the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday (7 p.m., CBC, SN1, SNE, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

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