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'There aren't enough players like him'

Brendan Gallagher will play his 500th career NHL game on Wednesday night, and his teammates and head coach couldn't be prouder

by Matt Cudzinowski @CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com

GLENDALE - After reaching the 300-point plateau on October 20 in Minnesota, Brendan Gallagher is about to hit another milestone on Wednesday night.

The 27-year-old right-winger will appear in his 500th career NHL game when Claude Julien's contingent battles the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena to open a three-game road trip.

It's hard to believe that nearly seven years have gone by since the Edmonton native made his Canadiens debut on January 22, 2013, but it's true.

While Gallagher appreciates the magnitude of his upcoming accomplishment, he isn't going to let the occasion get him off his game. That isn't his style.

"It's been fun so far, but I think it's probably not time to reflect on anything like that. You're pretty focused, but there'll be a time a few years down the road when you'll think more about it. For the time being, though, I'm just enjoying the ride," said Gallagher, following Tuesday's practice in Maricopa County. "I've been pretty fortunate to be in this organization for as long as I have, and I'm just trying to soak in as much as I possibly can."

Video: TOR@MTL: Gallagher buries rebound for opening goal

Admittedly, the former fifth-round pick of the Canadiens - selected 147th overall in 2010 - can't believe just how fast the last 499 games have come and gone.

Interestingly enough, only goaltender Carey Price remains from the very first roster the Edmonton native was a part of at the beginning of his tenure with the CH.

"It does go by quick, for sure. You sometimes look back at old teams and old pictures, and there's definitely a lot of turnover," said Gallagher. "I've been very fortunate to play in this organization as long as I have. It's a city and a team that's really embraced me, and it's made it that much more enjoyable. I think it's been a pretty fun 499 games so far, and hopefully there's more to come."

There definitely is. In fact, his teammates are counting on it. 

The way they talk about Gallagher gives you a good indication of the incredible admiration they have for him.

"You know he's going to bring his competitive attitude every night. He's a very consistent hockey player. He gives nothing less than his best every night," praised Price, who has enjoyed a front-row seat for Gallagher's exploits since day one. "He's definitely earned every bit of that respect. He's got all the respect of all of his teammates here. He's had to earn everything he's received in his career so far, so we're all very happy for him."

Video: MIN@MTL: Gallagher steals pass, roofs shot by Stalock

Gallagher's trademark competitiveness has long impressed the all-world netminder. 

"He's definitely a prime example of effort," mentioned Price, before shedding further light on one of his good buddy's best traits. "It doesn't matter what the situation, he's always competitive - even at the simple things, like off-ice challenges. Even in a simple card game, he doesn't want to lose."

Count linemate Phillip Danault among the two-time 30-goal scorer's biggest fans as well. 

Danault is adamant that the Canadiens' assistant captain is a perfect role model for players of all ages - especially those just breaking into the NHL ranks.

"He's a big part of the heart of this team. He gives his team a chance to win every night. That's what makes him an elite player," noted Danault, who has been Gallagher's teammate since February 2016. "Just look at his work ethic. It's impeccable on the ice, and he has a very good attitude in the gym. That makes him a player young guys should watch and compare themselves to. He's a special player."

Like his players, Julien holds Gallagher in high-esteem, too, for reasons aplenty.

"As coaches, you always appreciate guys who you know what you're going to get from them night in and night out, and he's one of those guys. You never question his effort," lauded Julien. "Coaches would love to have 20 guys like that on a nightly basis. That's what makes him a pretty special player."

Video: MTL@TOR: Gallagher pots rebound off face-off win

Gallagher's combativeness - particularly in front of opposing goaltenders - has always earned him plenty of points in Julien's book, of course.

It's a thankless job to position oneself in prime territory to be hacked by defensemen and hit by friendly fire on occasion, but the former WHL standout has never changed his play one bit.

"Despite his size, he always goes to the spots where he has to battle for pucks, whether it's in the corners or in front of the net," said Julien. "It isn't always easy to play that way, but he manages to do it. There aren't enough players like him."

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