BROSSARD, Quebec – Montreal Canadiens right wing Brendan Gallagher will miss a minimum of six weeks after having surgery on two fractured fingers on his left hand, the Canadiens said Tuesday.
Gallagher sustained the injury Sunday in a 4-2 win against the New York Islanders while blocking a shot by defenseman Johnny Boychuk.
“It’s a big loss,” coach Michel Therrien said. “He’s a big part of the success of this hockey team. But we lost [goaltender Carey Price] for a period of time. For me it’s not an excuse to not keep having success.”
Gallagher is third on the Canadiens and tied for 23rd in the NHL with 19 points, one behind the 20 points of his linemates Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec. He is also second on Montreal and 16th in the NHL with 70 shots on goal.
“He’s obviously a leader on this team and he brings a lot, more than just scoring goals and contributing offensively,” defenseman P.K. Subban said. “He’s a guy that works hard, blocks shots and comes to play every night. It’s going to be a void for us that we have to fill.”
Right wing Devante Smith-Pelly, who missed the game against the Islanders on Sunday with a lower-body injury, took Gallagher’s spot on the top line at practice Tuesday. Smith-Pelly has spent most of the season on the fourth line and has one goal and five assists in 21 games. But he is a straight-line player who is strong on the forecheck, much like Gallagher.
“I don’t have to change, it’s not like I have to go dangle and make tic-tac-toe plays just because I’m playing with those guys,” Smith-Pelly said. “All I have to do is continue doing what I’ve been doing.
“It’s a big hole to fill. I’m just hoping I go in there and play well.”
The Canadiens went 5-2-2 when Price was not available with a lower-body injury, and the hope is they can recover from the loss of Gallagher just as nicely.
“We lost our best player for a few weeks and did pretty well,” left wing Lars Eller said. “So we’ll see.”
The timeline means Gallagher could miss the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic against the Boston Bruins at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 1, which is a little less than six weeks from Tuesday. That will be the 18th game the Canadiens will play during Gallagher’s expected absence.
The Canadiens' first game without Gallagher will be Wednesday at Madison Square Garden when they visit the New York Rangers. The Rangers and Canadiens each have 34 points to sit 1-2 in the Eastern Conference standings, with the Rangers holding a game in hand.
The Canadiens also announced center Torrey Mitchell will miss 7-10 days with a lower-body injury he sustained Nov. 19 in a 3-2 loss to the Arizona Coyotes.