CALGARY - The fan support earlier this week at Rogers Arena was off the charts, and that should be the case again at the Scotiabank Saddledome tonight.
There were plenty of Habs fans in the stands for Thursday morning's optional skate, which is a good indication the visitors will be shown some serious love.
"It's pretty special. We understand how supportive Montreal Canadiens fans are, getting the chance to see them and play in front of them. We only get to come here once. It definitely means you want to play well in front of them," said assistant captain Brendan Gallagher, who was born and raised just three hours north in Edmonton. "Fans are really loud and supportive here, and the Habs fans come out and make that back-and-forth atmosphere fun to be a part of."
One of the fans in attendance for the on-ice session brought along a sign that really touched players' hearts.
And Gallagher was no exception.
"That stuff always humbles you," mentioned the 27-year-old right-winger. "We're very fortunate to do what we do. When you have that kind of impact on someone, it definitely is pretty touching. It means a lot."
Like his players, head coach Claude Julien is grateful for the unwavering support his club receives every single year in Western Canada.
"There's no doubting the fact that anytime you have people cheering for you in a hostile rink, it's a great asset for us," said Julien. "We love coming out here because there are a lot of Canadiens fans and our players seem to enjoy it. That was the case in Vancouver, and hopefully that's the case here tonight."
No stranger to the building
Back in January 2012, Gallagher actually suffered a heartbreaking loss at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
He was a member of the Canadian contingent that dropped a 6-5 decision to Russia in the semi-finals of the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship.
Nevertheless, Gallagher came away with a bronze medal courtesy of a shutout win over Finland.
"I guess the better memories were over in Edmonton [where Canada played their preliminary round games]. We obviously won the bronze medal game here, so it's always fun coming back to Alberta," recalled Gallagher. "That World Junior experience is something I'll remember for as long as I'm playing hockey. The energy in this building, the way the fans showed up and supported us as a team, it was really special to be a part of."
Apparently, the Habs' leading goal-scorer this season received a souvenir belt and a cowboy hat for participating in the annual tournament - and they've both managed to remain in his possession almost nine years later.
"I still have those. Don't wear them all that much. I can't really find an excuse," joked Gallagher. "I can't really pull that off, but they stay in my closet."
Brett's back in town
Defenseman Brett Kulak will be playing his first game in his former barn on Thursday night since being acquired by the Canadiens in October 2018.
A fourth-round draft pick of Calgary in 2012, Kulak played 101 regular-season games with the Flames over four seasons before moving on.
"It's a little weird, but it's also a little exciting being back. I've got lots of good friends in town and there are lots of good guys on the other team," said Kulak, following Wednesday's practice. "I played with them for a while. It'll be fun to compete against them and hopefully beat them."
The 25-year-old Edmonton native isn't feeling jittery ahead of his Saddledome return, however.
"I've been with the Canadiens now for what feels like a long time. This is where I feel comfortable," explained Kulak, who has appeared in 23 games with Montreal this season. "Coming back is a cool feeling. I haven't been in the Saddledome for a while. I think it'll be a cool feeling playing against my old teammates."