TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — When the Stanley Cup Final shifts to Montreal for Games 3 and 4, the Canadiens expect to have coach Dominique Ducharme back behind their bench.
Ducharme was required by provincial protocol in Quebec to isolate for 14 days after testing positive for the coronavirus. That two-week period ends Friday, just in time for Game 3 against the Tampa Bay Lightning that night.
Canadiens players say Ducharme has actively participated in meetings virtually while assistant Luke Richardson handles the daily duties in person.
“He’s involved in the process,” defenseman Jon Merrill said Wednesday. “Not obviously as much as he was before he got struck with COVID, but he’s definitely still a big part of this team and we look forward to seeing him when we get back to Montreal.”
Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he empathizes with Ducharme missing out on the opportunity to coach the first two games of his first final.
“I know personally it would be killing you inside to miss the grandest ball of them all, and that’s the Stanley Cup Final,” said Cooper, who is coaching in his third. “This is a time you should enjoy, and for him to have a team be in the final and not be part of it, I feel for him, even if he’s the competition. You want a team to have its full slate of players and the entire coaching staff. You really want guys to experience this and one day tell their kids, ‘I coached in the Stanley Cup Final.'”
Brendan Gallagher got up from being body-slammed to the ice late in Game 1 with blood streaming from his forehead looking like the face of playoff hockey. The tough-as-nails 5-foot-9 Canadiens forward was still sporting scars from that Wednesday but said he not suffered a concussion.
“They obviously asked,” Gallagher said. “Any time you get hit in the head, they ask. I have a pretty specific way of reacting when I have a concussion. It usually involves me yelling a lot. I think the trainers understood, I was pretty calm. They’ve seen me when I have those things and there were no worries there.”
Gallagher said he was checked again Tuesday and doctors were not concerned.
“I took a pretty good shot,” he said. “The ice is pretty hard but felt fine and ready to move on.”
Richardson said Gallagher’s face “looks like a road map.” He was never worried about Gallagher missing time in the final.
“Gally is Gally — he’s got marks all over his face every game,” Richardson said. “He’ll be there battling and in everybody’s face at the crease the same as he always is. He is a warrior and we count on him to be that way.”
Cooper ruled out forward Alex Killorn for Game 2 Wednesday night and called Tampa Bay’s fourth-leading scorer “day to day in the series” because of an undisclosed injury. Killorn blocked a shot from Montreal defenseman Jeff Petry in the second period of Game 1 Monday night and only skated one shift in the third before leaving the bench.
Killorn has eight goals and nine assists in the playoffs, and only three total players have more points than his 17. He’s a key part of Tampa Bay’s power play and penalty kill.
“He brings immense value,” Cooper said. “He plays multiple special teams, he kills penalties for us, he’s on the top power play unit, he can check for us, he chips in on the goal scoring side of things. He’s a depth, veteran player you can depend on game in and game out.”
Mathieu Joseph replaced Killorn in Tampa Bay’s lineup, his first game since May 20 back in the first round.
Joel Armia returned for the Canadiens after missing Game 1 following a brief stint in NHL COVID protocol. Armia was scratched Monday after traveling to Tampa hours before puck drop but brings the potential for offense 5-on-5 and shorthanded, where he’s a big part of the penalty kill.
Armia reunited with Eric Staal and Corey Perry on the fourth line.
“They’re three big bodies that cycle the puck so well,” Gallagher said. “They create so much momentum for us with those O-zone shifts and they’re tough to play against. And they just work well together.”
After the Lightning got approval to host 18,600 fans for Game 2, up from 16,300 in Game 1, the Canadiens got the red light from Quebec health officials. The team said, “Quebec Public Health authorities will not allow the Canadiens to have more fans in the Bell Centre,” leaving it at 3,500 for Game 3.
Even though most would be cheering against his team, Cooper wanted more fans to be allowed at games in Montreal.
“Hockey is meant to be played in front of fans, and it brings an energy to the building,” Cooper said earlier this week. “The fans in Quebec deserve it. They haven’t been back since ’93. They deserve to watch their team play.”
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