TORONTO - In Friday's practice notebook, Brendan Gallagher is out for at least two months, Alex Galchenyuk and Andrei Markov are close to returning to active duty, and Nikita Scherbak is set to make his NHL debut.
Another man down: Just as practice began on Friday afternoon at the MasterCard Centre in Etobicoke, the Canadiens announced that Brendan Gallagher underwent surgery on Thursday night in Montreal to repair his fractured left hand. The club also confirmed that the 24-year-old forward would be sidelined for at least the next eight weeks.
It's just another blow to a Canadiens roster that has already been deprived of the likes of Alex Galchenyuk, Andrei Markov, Andrew Shaw, David Desharnais and Greg Pateryn for extended periods of time.
"We obviously feel really bad for him, two years in a row," said captain Max Pacioretty, referencing the fact that Gallagher suffered a similar injury to the same hand last November that forced him to miss 17 games, before making his return for the 2016 Winter Classic in Foxborough, MA. "But, he's in good hands and good spirits, so we're hoping to get him back as soon as possible."
Video: Max Pacioretty on the loss of Brendan Gallagher
Gallagher wasn't the only casualty on Wednesday night in Dallas, though, as Paul Byron suffered an upper-body injury of his own as well. He didn't skate with the rest of the group at the Toronto Maple Leafs' practice facility as the Canadiens prepared for their seventh straight road game come Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre.
While the squad's injury list has essentially been growing longer and longer by the day, Michel Therrien's troops continue to find ways to string wins together and bank their fair share of points. That's certainly been the case during this extended swing away from the friendly confines of the Bell Centre, which, according to Pacioretty, is a credit to everyone taking it upon themselves to step up their respective games in the absence of some key weapons up front and on the back end.
"We just take things one day at a time. We have good players stepping in, and guys who are going to get an opportunity now to step in and make a difference, especially with Brendan being an offensive guy. Some guys will get more offensive responsibilities," said Pacioretty, referencing the fact that the Canadiens have collected eight out of a possible 12 points in their last six outings dating back to December 23. "It's a good opportunity for guys to step up and we hope that everyone that's injured comes back."
Making progress: Speaking of players coming back sooner rather than later, Alex Galchenyuk and Andrei Markov were both on the ice in Etobicoke on Friday afternoon, albeit with "no contact" maroon jerseys on.
The pair made their way to Toronto on Thursday night to continue the rehab work they'd begun at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard. It marked the first time that they'd practiced in a group setting in quite a while, so naturally it felt good to be around the team again.
"It was nice to be back with the guys, going out there and skating - and not skating by yourself. It was a fun time," said Galchenyuk, who has missed the last 14 games with a knee injury sustained on December 4 in Los Angeles, but, like Markov, is inching closer and closer to returning to active duty. "I'm still feeling out some things and now it's just working on the things that I've done before, cutting across and doing the stuff with the puck. The knee feels great so far and it's one day at a time, but it's definitely getting closer."
Video: Alex Galchenyuk on his recovery
It's safe to say that the Canadiens' No. 27 is chomping at the bit to suit up again and get back to the form that saw him put up nine goals and 23 points in 25 games before being injured in Southern California. It certainly hasn't been easy for him watching from afar.
"I can't wait to be back playing with the guys. They've been keeping up their play lately with five overtimes in a row. You just want to be out there and just enjoy the game with the guys. Obviously, it's not always great to watch the games on TV. It sucks. It can be painful, but it is what it is in this kind of sports," said Galchenyuk. "Now, getting on the ice and skating with the team, you kind of feel positive that you're going to be there."
Nikita's time has come: Following Friday's on-ice session, Therrien confirmed that young gun Nikita Scherbak would make his NHL debut against the Maple Leafs after being called up from the AHL's St. John's IceCaps.
The 21-year-old Russian is enjoying a solid sophomore season with Sylvain Lefebvre's contingent with 10 goals and 20 points in 27 games, and the Canadiens' bench boss is interested to see what the right-winger can bring to the table.
"I'm eager to see what kind of game he'll play," said Therrien, who featured Scherbak on a line with Michael McCarron and Bobby Farnham at practice. "We were a little bit disappointed [in his play] after training camp, but he took himself in hand in St. John's and things went really well. He upped his intensity level and his work level. He has a lot of talent, but he has to learn to play at the rhythm of the NHL game."
Video: Michel Therrien on the Habs' injuries and call-ups
That will obviously come with experience, and it all begins for real for Scherbak on Saturday night.
"My game is better than at the start of the year. I feel more confident. I play better and I'm a better all-around player than before. It's a good chance for me to show what I can do. I'm ready to go," said Scherbak, who is excited at the possibility of playing alongside McCarron in the next installment of the Canadiens-Maple Leafs Original Six rivalry. "I played with McCarron down in St. John's. He's a good player and a good friend also. We have good chemistry between us."
Video: Nikita Scherbak on being called up by the Canadiens