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The making of the mettle

The Habs are trying to roll with the punches as they attempt to work their way out of their five-game slide

by Dan Braverman @CanadiensMTL /

BROSSARD - If nothing else, the Canadiens' current losing skid is a test of fortitude - of the mental variety, that is. 

"It doesn't matter what business you're in, you're going to have to go through adversity at some point in your life," outlined Brendan Gallagher, the Habs' leading goal-scorer this season. "It's how you handle it that really shows your character, and this is a good test for us."

The six-year veteran and Canadiens' alternate captain allowed himself to get somewhat philosophical when he met with the media after practice on Wednesday, all with the aim of ensuring he and his team continued to orient themselves in a positive direction.

"There is a way out of it; there's always a solution. It's just about working hard and continuing to find that," explained Gallagher, whose 15 goals and six assists have him tied for third on the team in points. "As a group, today was a good day of pushing each other to get better, but it needs to continue day after day."

The 25-year-old stressed the importance of hard work and leading by example as the Canadiens' keys to getting out of their current funk, one in which they have dropped their last five games, and have won only three of their last 10. And Gallagher believes it all starts in practice.

"Practices are big for us right now. When you're going through tough times, practices are where you can up your compete level and your battle level, and that carries over," he added. "If you can push each other to improve, it's only going to make us stronger as a group. This is a test for us."

Video: Brendan Gallagher on leading by example

Habs bench boss Claude Julien, who has led many a practice in his 1,061-game NHL career, felt that an up-tempo session was just what the doctor had ordered for his troops.

"Today's practice was intense, because we worked hard so we can try to get out of this," the coach noted. "It's important to keep our morale as high as possible, in the hope of changing the output in games. Today, I was happy to see the guys work hard and come to the rink with a good attitude.

"I saw a difference today."

Video: Claude Julien's press conference

After the previous night's 4-1 defeat at the hands of the visiting San Jose Sharks, the players held a meeting to try to get at the root of their problems. Karl Alzner, a newcomer to the squad this season, sees it as a reflection of a group that has maintained its cohesion despite the challenges and pressure it's been through.

"I feel like everybody here chimes in and does a little bit here and there, so that's kind of a nice thing. We're all in it together and we all understand the struggle and know what we need to do to fix it," said Alzner, who has averaged 20:35 of ice time in 40 games for the Canadiens this season. "It's going to be a test for the guys wearing the letters, the guys who've been around longer, but even the young guys. We've got some spots that can be filled. Everybody needs to step up. That's on the entire team."

On the injury front, Julien gave an update on the status of defenseman Shea Weber - who has not played since returning from Vancouver on the Habs' west-coast road trip - announcing that the 32-year-old alternate captain would be "doubtful" until at least after the All-Star break.

Alex Galchenyuk missed practice on Wednesday, and Julien told reporters a flu bug making its way through the team was the culprit, although he did not say if the young sniper would be available to face the Lightning at the Bell Centre on Thursday.

Video: Al Montoya on recovering from a concussion

There was some encouraging news coming out of Brossard, however. Netminder Al Montoya, who has been out with a concussion since November 4, was on the ice for a second-straight practice with his teammates at the Bell Sports Complex. The veteran puck stopper admitted that dealing with his recent head injury was a difficult ordeal, and though he hasn't been given the green light yet, he's happy to be catching a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel.

"When you have something that's not so black and white, like [it would be with] a hamstring or a knee injury, it's tough to deal with and you go to a dark place for a long time," recounted Montoya. "For me, to be out of there, feeling good, being myself, it's all I wanted.

"It was a tough position to be put in. Injuries are a part of the job, but just when you have one like that, it's tough. I'm very grateful for the staff that we had here to help get me through it and get me back to myself. It's been a long time and I feel great. I'm just looking forward to the next day."

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