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Putting in the work

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – It’s safe to say Brendan Gallagher will be fit for duty come the start of training camp in mid-September.

Just one week after Michel Therrien’s troops were sent packing by the Tampa Bay Lightning in Round 2, Gallagher was back in the gym readying himself for the 2015-16 campaign. The 23-year-old wasted little time getting back to basics, looking to pick up right where he left off last season.

Brendan Gallagher is primed to begin his fourth NHL campaign in 2015-16.

“When it comes to training, I’ve been focusing on a little bit of everything over the last couple of months back home [in British Columbia]. You start in that phase where you’re just trying to get your strength up, and once it gets to a certain point you get into the cardio aspect of it. We’ve been doing a lot of sprints and a lot of quickness-related stuff because the game I try to play takes a real toll on your body. All summer long, you’ve got to make sure that you’re putting yourself in a position where you’re still able to perform come the end of the regular season and into the playoffs,” offered the former fifth-round selection, who put up a career-high 24 goals and 47 points in 82 regular season games last season, before chipping in with three goals and five points in 12 postseason contests. “I’m doing things that are designed to push my body to the limit, take it to the next level and really see what I’m capable of. It’s the same thing every offseason. We focus on high-intensity work, so that we can be effective throughout the year.”

Like the majority of NHLers, the Canadiens’ No. 11 isn’t going about his offseason efforts alone, working out as part of a group of players that has remained relatively unchanged for the last five or six years.

“There are some guys I grew up playing with on the [Vancouver] Giants and a few AHL guys. Lance Bouma of the Calgary Flames is the only other NHL guy in the group, though. We’ve had the same solid group for a while, so we’re comfortable together. We’re really competitive with each other, too. Every summer, we’re always pushing each other to get better and better. It’s all for the same goal – to become better hockey players. We can’t lose sight of that. That competition is healthy,” mentioned Gallagher, who also resumed skating just over a week ago, hitting the ice with skating coach, Paul Lawson, and shooting coach, Tim Turk. “We’re all working out of the old high school we went to growing up in Tsawwassen. We’ve got stairs that we use and a hill we can use, too. We’ll use the beach for sand sprints and a track when we can do agility work and regular sprints. We’re kind of all over Tsawwassen these days.”

For a second straight summer, Canadiens prospect Daniel Carr is among those players fine-tuning his fitness level alongside Gallagher & Co. on the west coast. Carr is coming off a breakout campaign in Hamilton, pacing the Bulldogs with 24 goals in his first season in the pros.

Gallagher working out on the beach in Santa Monica, CA alongside fellow Nike athletes.

“I’ve known Daniel from when we were really young and we lived in Edmonton. We were actually in the same hockey academy out there together. He’s always been a hard-working guy who’s just eager to learn. Every day, he shows up ready to work, ready to push. For a guy like me, it’s good to get a look at the guys trying to come up and compete with you. It’s nice to see them pushing guys to get better. With Daniel, you know that will never stop,” praised Gallagher, who is pleased to have one of the Habs’ top young guns working with his group once again this year. “We’re on the same team, fighting for the same thing. To have the two of us here working as hard as we do, he pushes me to get better and hopefully I can do the same thing for him. You’re always trying to improve because you know every other team is doing the same thing and working hard for the same goal. It’s just a matter of reaching that goal as quickly as possible. It’s been great having him here. We’re both benefiting from it.”

Workouts aside, the three-year NHL veteran has enjoyed some well-deserved downtime in recent weeks. In addition to attending his brother Nolan’s high school graduation ceremony, Gallagher also met up with defenseman Nathan Beaulieu and goaltender Dustin Tokarski in San Diego. Earlier this summer, he also traveled to Southern California to work on some promotional materials for his sponsor, Nike.

“That was a little bit of a quicker trip down to Santa Monica. I was out there with guys like LeSean McCoy, Kendrick Farris and Jesse Hart. It was cool to talk to them about their seasons, their training, and what their lives are like and compare it to your own,” shared Gallagher, who could be making a trip down to Nike HQ in Oregon at some point in July or August. “You take away a lot of information when you talk to athletes in different sports. You get a feel for what their workouts are all about, their diets, what they’re doing in the gym, and a lot more. It’s also really interesting to hear about the sacrifices they made and everything they’ve done to be as successful as they are today.”

Sacrifice is something Gallagher is intimately familiar with in his own right, laying his body on the line every time he laces up his skates. That’s exactly how the 5-foot-9, 182-pound right-winger has earned his stripes in the NHL ranks over the years, putting the interests of his team far above his own.

“I’ve never gone into a season saying I’m going to score this many goals or pick up that many points. I’ve just never been able to do that. It’s no different heading into October. I feel like that’s not the only part of the game that’s important. In my mind, it’s important to focus on other things. I just try not to have any bad games. I want to be reliable for my teammates and reliable for the coaching staff so they can trust me on the ice,” explained Gallagher, who was the Canadiens’ fourth-most utilized forward in 2014-15, averaging 16:35 of ice time per game. “You want to be counted on when your team needs a big shift and you need to get the job done – whether it’s scoring a big goal or defending a lead. Then, your job is just to go out there and create energy. I’m focused on consistency, game after game. Nothing changes. I’m going to be the same guy. I’m going to play the same way. I’m going to be the same teammate that I’ve always been.”

So, where does Gallagher think the Canadiens stand heading into 2015-16?

Gallagher isn't about to change anything when it comes to the way he goes about his business on the ice.

“I think we have to continue to grow, continue to get better, learn from our previous seasons and correct some things. We feel like we’re right there, though. We feel like we’re close. We feel like we have a great group of guys that love coming to the rink every day and growing and getting better with each other. We have to take the next step, and for us it’s about learning from it. Once you lose, it takes a while to get over it. In a sense, you never really do. It’s always in the back of your mind. I can remember the feeling after each playoff series we’ve lost. But, you’ve got to learn how to lose before you can learn how to win. That’s what we’re going through right now,” offered Gallagher, who will spend the remainder of the offseason training on home turf before returning to La Belle Province in early September.

“Still, the one thing you can’t say about our group is that we’ve lacked confidence. Whatever we were going through, whatever situation we were in, we always felt like we were going to win the next game. That’s something that’s hard to find in athletes because the mental side of things is so big,” added Gallagher, who credits the Canadiens’ leadership contingent of Tomas Plekanec, Max Pacioretty, Andrei Markov, P.K. Subban and Carey Price for much of the success the CH enjoyed in 2014-15. “We were confident in our systems, in our structure and in the players that we had in the locker room. It’s a pretty good feeling when you’re getting ready to face opponents and that feeling is there. We’re going to be stronger this year for it.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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