Stu Cowan: The battle continues for Canadiens Brendan Gallagher

Stu Cowan: The battle continues for Canadiens  Brendan Gallagher
“Right when it’s about to heal, it always seems to get reopened,” Gallagher said after the Canadiens’ morning skate Tuesday in Brossard. “I guess it’s just part of what I am.”

Gallagher is a warrior on the ice and it’s remarkable he hasn’t missed a single game this season. In fact, Tuesday night’s game against the Florida Panthers at the Bell Centre was the 184th consecutive game for Gallagher, dating back to Feb. 11, 2017. The only two Canadiens with longer iron-man streaks are Max Domi (192) and Jeff Petry (190).

The NHL schedule is the most physically demanding in pro team sports and it’s remarkable any player can survive the 82-game season without missing a game. Then there’s the playoffs, where teams basically play every second night for two months if they make it to the Stanley Cup final. Last season, Washington played 106 games — including regular season and playoffs — and only three Capitals played every game en route to the championship: Alex Ovechkin, John Carlson and Dmitri Orlov. Gallagher, Domi, Petry and Artturi Lehkonen are the only Canadiens not to miss a game this season.

You can see the cut on Gallagher’s nose, but you know there are other parts of his body that were hurting heading into game No. 77 Tuesday night with the gritty style of game he plays. That’s why Monday’s day off, after playing three games in four nights, was so welcome. Starting March 1, the Canadiens schedule had them playing 18 games in 37 days to end the season.

“After back-to-back games, your body needs a rest to recover,” Gallagher said. “So you just try and drink a lot of water, eat some good meals, relax and recover a little bit. At this part of the year, those off-days really start to pay off.”

Gallagher spent much of his day off Monday eating. At 5-foot-9 and 184 pounds, it can be difficult for him to keep weight on this late in the season.

“I’m just really trying to eat as much as I can … as many meals as you can,” he said. “I’m trying to hold the weight at this time of year, so that’s all I’m trying to do. It’s been OK. It’s just something you try to focus on. It’s stayed the same the last few years and I’ve been able to manage it pretty well. You don’t eat as much on game days, so the next day you got to try and replenish the system and get as much food in you as you can.”

Gallagher didn’t have to worry about making breakfast Tuesday.

“I got my old man in town right now so he had breakfast ready,” Gallagher said with a smile. “One less thing to worry about, which was nice.”

Gallagher’s father, Ian, is the director of the Delta Hockey Academy in B.C. and also the strength and conditioning coach with more than 25 years of experience working with pro and amateur players, including the WHL’s Vancouver Giants — where his son used to play — from 2004-2016. Ian still trains his son and some other NHL players in B.C. during the summer.

“That’s his job in the summer,” Gallagher said. “Right now, he’s just a father. It’s nice the relationship we have.

“It’s a lot of things,” Gallagher added about surviving the NHL season. “Obviously, it starts in the summer. You got to put a lot of work in. During the season, especially this time of the year, you’re not getting a lot of time in the gym or anything like that. It’s just recovering from injuries, little bumps and bruises. As long as you take advantage of the off-days, it’s fine. You kind of get in a little routine or a rhythm like we are right now. You play the game then you have the day off to recover, which is always nice.”

There are some legendary stories about NHL players battling through painful injuries to keep playing. Former Canadiens captain Bob Gainey played a playoff series against the New York Islanders in 1984 with one separated shoulder and one dislocated shoulder. Last season, Canadiens captain Shea Weber suffered a broken foot in the first game of the season and played 25 more games before being shut down and eventually requiring surgery.

“I could be wrong — but I’m pretty sure it was a fully torn bicep and he played,” Gallagher recalled. “He couldn’t even really straighten his arm or lift it up, but he was out there playing. Stuff like that, especially when I was a young player, you get a pretty good idea of what the playoffs are going to be like.”
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