BROSSARD - For a second straight day, Brendan Gallagher skated on his regular line along with Phillip Danault and Tomas Tatar at practice at the Bell Sports Complex.
The winger, who's been dealing with the fallout of a concussion suffered on New Year's Eve in Carolina, will be making the trip with his teammates to Buffalo and Tatar couldn't be happier to have the two-time 30-goal scorer back on his line.
"It's huge. Obviously, we had some chemistry with Kovy [Ilya Kovalchuk] and we really enjoyed it. But with Brendan, at this point we've almost played together a year and a half," explained Tatar, who leads the Canadiens with 44 points (17G, 27A) this season. "We know each other a lot on the ice. To have Brendan back, it brings a smile in the locker room; he's a great guy to be around. Me and Phil had a great practice with him and we're really enjoying it."
Video: Tomas Tatar on reuniting with Gallagher
It remains to be seen if the trio will be officially reunited on Thursday, however, as head coach Claude Julien told reporters that Gallagher had not yet received the green light for game action.
Still, Gallagher will be making the trip to Upstate New York with his squad. So will Jonathan Drouin, Shea Weber, Nate Thompson, Artturi Lehkonen, and Max Domi. Julien said that Drouin has healed from his injury but there's still no timetable for his return. Weber (resting day) and Thompson (therapy day) are expected to face the Sabres, but Julien said that Lehkonen and Domi, who are both recovering from the flu, would likely be a game-time decision.
If Gallagher does draw back into the lineup, that could mean that Julien would link Kovalchuk up with Joel Armia and rookie Nick Suzuki. The three have been matched up on a line at practice this week and Suzuki, who grew up watching Kovalchuk tear it up with the Atlanta Thrashers and, later, the New Jersey Devils, feels privileged to get to skate on a line with the Russian sniper.
"It's really cool. Just coming to the rink and seeing him, and playing on the same line over the last couple practices has been really cool," admitted Suzuki, who's fifth in the NHL rookie scoring race with 28 points (9G, 19A). "He's been a great guy since he's gotten here and I'm just trying to learn off of him."
Video: Nick Suzuki on skating with Kovalchuk
Back to the old barn
Acquired from Buffalo on January 2, defenseman Marco Scandella will be playing his first game against his old team on Thursday. And though he was excited he'd get to be seeing some familiar faces, the Montreal native knows that he has to keep his focus on the Habs' situation in the standings.
"I've been in the League for 10 years. It's going to be fun to play against Buffalo, against my friends," said Scandella, who put up 44 points (14G, 30A) in 176 games with the Sabres over parts of three seasons. "But it's just another game. For us, it's a huge game. We need the two points; that's it."
Video: Marco Scandella on facing his former team
Julien agrees, noting that his club has some crucial four-point games on the horizon that don't leave much room for error.
"The next three games are against teams we're trying to catch. We don't have a choice," acknowledged the coach. "We have to show our identity as a team that is ready to face the challenge. That's what we're going to be asking of our players, starting tomorrow."
Video: Claude Julien's post-practice press conference
The Canadiens departed for Buffalo shortly after practice. They face the Sabres at 7:00 p.m. at KeyBank Center on Thursday.