To say that the Montreal Canadiens have fought Murphy’s Law this season would be an understatement. They define the infamous term because everything that could go wrong for the Habs, has and continues to go wrong.
Forwards Brendan Gallagher (lower-body) and Paul Byron (hip) won’t play Saturday night against the Edmonton Oilers at the Bell Centre but all signs do point towards a return against the Columbus Blue Jackets. As for the stranded duo of Joel Armia and Cole Caufield, who has spent the last week in Wisconsin waiting to clear the NHL COVID Protocol and to be allowed to return to Montreal? They are flying back to Montreal today after their flight was canceled Friday. They won’t play Saturday night and tomorrow against the Blue Jackets is up in the air at best.
As of yesterday, there was a strong chance that by Sunday – if not tonight – the forward corps for the Montreal Canadiens could get a boost of life. Armia, Caufield, Byron, and Gallagher, were all expected to be cleared to play today. Instead, all four players will be out of the lineup tonight at the Bell Centre when Evander Kane makes his Oilers debut. As a result, there’s a solid chance Montreal Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme dresses seven defensemen and eleven forwards.
“There might be changes,” Ducharme replied when asked what lineup changes might take place. ‘What we’re going to do is we’re going to dress seven D and 11 forwards for warmup and make a decision. We might be going 7-11, we’ll see. That’s something that first we want to check on our players if everyone is OK and healthy and so on. …and protect ourselves. We have two options. If everyone is OK, we might go 11-7 or regular 6-12.”
When asked specifically what player or players may exit and enter the lineup, Ducharme once again comically admitted, given the way this season is going, who the heck knows?
“There’s not really one guy but since the first day of camp, we’re not short of surprises, so I’m just being careful here,” Ducharme quipped.
Dominique Ducharme répond aux questions des médias.
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) January 29, 2022
Ducharme then described what seems like it was a scene out of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles for Armia and Caufield.
“Their flight got canceled,” Ducharme told the media Saturday. “It got delayed like three times yesterday and they waited like ten hours at the airport, couldn’t leave yesterday, so they’re just flying in, I believe this afternoon. So, maybe tomorrow but again, is it the best situation for them to just fly in, not have a skate with the team, and play? We’ll see the situation again after the game tonight and more tomorrow.”
If the two Montreal Canadiens forwards don’t play Sunday that will be five straight games that they would have missed since their last game on Jan. 17 in Arizona. Obviously, rust could be an issue and with the Habs about to get an eight-day break, Armia and Caufield will be even rustier. On Saturday, Ducharme acknowledged that a reconditioning stint with the Laval Rocket (AHL) for each player could be beneficial.
“That’s something we’ll talk about with Jeff and Kent but right now it’s not decided, we haven’t talked about it yet but we’ll see, that might be something,” Ducharme replied.”