MONTREAL - The Habs were up for a fun morning on-ice session as part of the Provigo Canadiens Practice at the Bell Centre on Sunday, but beneath it all, there was concern for their friend and teammate, Phillip Danault.
The Canadiens center was hit in the head the night before by a sailing Zdeno Chara shot from the point in his team's 4-3 shootout loss to the Bruins and spent the night in hospital under observation.
However, while the Habs were dazzling fans with three-on-three shinny and a breakaway competition at the open practice, Danault was given the green light to return home to continue his recovery.
Needless to say, when they discovered the news, his teammates were both thrilled and relieved.
"I got a text message from his girlfriend, who was replying to me. It's a nice way to start the day, we're happy," said Nicolas Deslauriers, who scored the second-period equalizer against Boston for his fifth marker of the campaign. "I'm going to call him or text him as soon as I leave here, just to see if he needs anything."
Rearguard Jordie Benn was asked about the conversation he had with Chara prior to the start of the third and said the Bruins defenseman was worried about the 24-year-old pivot's well-being.
"He just asked how Phil was doing. He was pretty concerned about him. He didn't mean to do it. He was just asking me how he was doing, and at that point I didn't really know," outlined Benn, who logged 19:55 against Boston. "We knew he was off to the hospital to get checked out. Our training staff and the paramedics did a great job, and he's doing well. We just have to wait, and hopefully he can get healthy pretty quick."
Video: Benn on protecting himself while blocking shots
The concern Chara showed for his opponent demonstrates how, despite being adversaries on the ice, the players are also part of the same fraternity when it matters most.
"Everyone in the NHL is like that; there's a respect for the other players," added Jonathan Drouin. "You put hockey aside for a good 15-20 minutes. It was an accident, a slapshot that got a bit too high and that hit him in the face. It's tough to see that, but it was an accident. But when you see all the Boston guys who stayed, Bergeron gave him a little tap - he knows Phil - you forget about hockey, you put it aside."
Video: Jonathan Drouin on losing Danault
This isn't the first instance Benn is aware of a player taking a puck in the head while getting in the way of an opposing shot, but the veteran of seven NHL seasons affirmed that he tries not to let it affect his mental game as much as he can.
"Yes and no. I've played with Dan Hamhuis that took one, and then Phil now. It crosses my mind every now and then, but the way I try to block shots, if I go down, I just try and cover my head with my hand as much as possible," he confided. "I'd rather take it in the body than the head any day.
Drouin, who assisted on Alex Galchenyuk's go-ahead goal not long after Deslauriers made it 2-2, pointed out that the Habs would have to make up for Danault's absence by committee.
"Phil is a player who plays both ends of the ice. He's an important player - for the power play, penalty kill," he explained. "He's a big piece of ours at center, but every time someone gets hurt, other guys need to step up."
And with a packed schedule chock-full of key games on the immediate horizon, there won't be any time to dither.
"There are some big games coming up. We like the way we've played the past three games," concluded Drouin. "The Islanders are doing very well, they're scoring a lot of goals, so we'll have to be good defensively."