BROSSARD - One of the Canadiens' most durable soldiers won't be in the lineup on Thursday night.
After appearing in 229 consecutive regular-season games, right-winger Brendan Gallagher was placed on injured reserve with a concussion.
Gallagher suffered the injury earlier in the week against the Carolina Hurricanes when defenseman Ben Chiarot inadvertently kneed him in the head.
This will mark the first time the 27-year-old Edmonton native has missed a game since February 11, 2017.
"We don't know how long he'll be out. It'll depend on his recovery. But it's another big loss," said head coach Claude Julien, who is also without the services of forwards Jonathan Drouin, Joel Armia and Paul Byron due to injury as well. "We haven't been lucky lately, so we have to find a way to overcome this and try and win games."
Video: Claude Julien's pregame press conference vs. TBL
Before going down, Gallagher was enjoying another strong campaign. He ranked second on the roster in goals (15) and points (32) through 40 games playing alongside Tomas Tatar and Phillip Danault.
In Gallagher's absence, Julien has designated Nick Cousins to take his spot on the top line versus Tampa Bay.
"He isn't a player you see on the top two lines normally, but we don't have a choice," said Julien, who has watched Cousins register five goals and 12 points in 34 appearances thus far this year. "For him, it's about playing an intelligent brand of hockey. When he has time, he makes good plays and good decisions. He's been one of our best goal scorers on the third and fourth lines this season."
Cousins' plan against the Lightning is rather simple.
"I'll just bring my skillset. I'm not trying to replicate what Gally can do. Nobody can replace what he can do. I'll just try and bring my skillset and not overcomplicate things," explained Cousins. "Those two have been playing together for a while, so I'll just try and bring my game to that line and see what we can do."
Make no mistake about it, the six-year NHL veteran fully understands the importance of being a real contributor with his new linemates.
The Canadiens have lost their last three games, so getting back on the winning track is huge.
"This is playoff hockey right now. You can beat around the bush all you want, but it's probably playoff hockey for us. This next stretch of games before the bye week is pretty crucial," insisted Cousins. "No better way to start off against Tampa who we're chasing, and back at home in front of our fans."
Video: Nick Cousins on joining the top line
For his part, Julien believes his club is more than capable of dealing with the adversity they're facing at the moment - even without some of their top offensive weapons in tow.
"As frustrating as it can be for people and fans, and even for us to a certain point because we don't like losing, I don't think there's any question about the character of this team. It battles all the time," stressed Julien. "I can't remember a game where I felt like we were lazy or didn't compete. It's always been there. The effort, the will and the desire has always been there."
'This is kind of a last chance for me'
After being recalled from the AHL's Laval Rocket on Wednesday afternoon, Dale Weise took part in the morning skate.
The Winnipeg native, who was featured on a line with Lukas Vejdemo and Nate Thompson, wasn't expecting to receive such good news to kick off 2020.
"I was surprised. At 31, when you get sent down to the American Hockey League and you're down there for half a year, you really don't know when you're going to get another chance, so this means a lot to me right now," explained Weise, who registered three goals and seven points in 27 games with Laval this season. "I'm extremely pumped to be here. I'm ready to show that I can still play and I have plenty of gas left in the tank."
He's hoping to bring "some energy, some excitement and some pop" against the Lightning, which will mark the 491st game of his NHL career.
And he really wants to prove the Canadiens' brass right for giving him another opportunity to sport the CH.
"This is kind of a last chance for me. I didn't expect to kind of get one," admitted Weise. "I'm ready. I've played really, really well the last couple of weeks. It's the best I've played. I feel good."