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Gallagher: 'It's still awesome'

For Brendan Gallagher, playing in British Columbia will always be extra special

by Matt Cudzinowski @CanadiensMTL /

VANCOUVER - Head coach Claude Julien is making just one lineup change on Tuesday night.

After watching the last eight games from the press box as a healthy scratch, Mike Reilly will play for the first time since November 28 against the New Jersey Devils.

Admittedly, the 26-year-old defenseman didn't see such a lengthy period of inactivity coming. It really did catch him by surprise.

"It's been a little bit frustrating the last two-and-a-half weeks. I was definitely a little bit shocked when I came out of the lineup," said Reilly, who'll be featured alongside rookie Cale Fleury versus Vancouver. "The only thing I can control is coming to the rink every day and coming to work. Whenever I get back in, I have to be ready. It's just using those practices and pregame skates when I wasn't playing and trying to get better, staying crisp, and staying in a good rhythm."

Video: Mike Reilly on returning to the lineup in Vancouver

And in order to remain on the ice instead of supporting his teammates from afar, the University of Minnesota product knows he can't play a tentative brand of hockey.

That's something assistant coach Luke Richardson has been preaching to him and the rest of the defense corps.

"The coaches' message to a lot of the guys, including myself, is just kill plays, get on guys quick, and don't be hesitant out there. I think that can be used all the way around the ice," explained Reilly, who has four assists in 11 games this season. "If you're more hesitant, you're probably not moving your feet right away and not closing on guys as quickly you should be."

While Reilly is pleased with the opportunity to strut his stuff again, assistant captain Brendan Gallagher is particularly pumped for the chance to play on home soil.

This marks his seventh career game playing in front of his loved ones at Rogers Arena, and it still means the world to him when he hits the ice.

"It's still awesome. You get here a couple of days early, you get to spend some time with the family, and you get to see a couple of buddies you don't get to see all that often - and then you get to play in front of them," said Gallagher, a Tsawwassen, BC resident during the offseason and a Vancouver Giants (WHL) alum. "Hopefully you're able to leave the rink with a smile on your face knowing that you did them proud."

Tweet from @CanadiensMTL: Le match n'est m��me pas pr��s de commencer, mais nous avons d��j�� plusieurs partisans sur place!It's not even game time and we've already got Habs fans in the house.#GoHabsGo

Scoring for the first time in the Canucks' home rink would certainly bring some smiles to his parents' and siblings' faces, of course, but so would coming away with a big win and two points in the standings to begin the four-game Western Canada road trip.

"We've got to right the ship here and get back to our winning ways," insisted Gallagher, referencing last Saturday night's 2-1 loss to the last-place Detroit Red Wings at the Bell Centre that snapped a three-game winning streak. "We know it's really tough coming into these buildings and finding ways to collect points. That's our challenge. That's what we have to do."

Julien knows the Canucks are a formidable foe with plenty of weapons at their disposal, including forwards Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser, and defenseman Quinn Hughes. 

They've all contributed to helping Vancouver own the fourth-ranked power play in the League.

"They're a highly-skilled team. You watch them play and they can score goals. Their power play is extremely good," said Julien. "They're a young team that's going in the right direction. We know what kind of challenge that gives us. That's what I see from that team - good speed, good skill level, and they're very dangerous on offense."

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