The Montreal Canadiens could have one of their key offensive contributors available while they try to continue some current road success and change their recent fortunes against the Buffalo Sabres.
Forward Brendan Gallagher reportedly has a good chance to return from injury as the Canadiens aim for a third straight road victory Thursday night against the Sabres, who will be without No. 1 goaltender Linus Ullmark.
Gallagher is second on the team with 15 goals and fifth with 32 points, but he's played just once (Jan. 9) since suffering a concussion on New Year's Eve. Montreal is 4-6-1 in 2020, but suffered just its second loss in the last six contests, 4-2 vs. Washington on Monday.
What's more, forward Jonathan Drouin (seven goals, eight assists in 19 games) is close to returning, as well. He has not played since Nov. 15, as his strong start was derailed by a wrist injury. But he made the trip with the Canadiens and is close to returning.
The possibility that either one could return as early as Thursday should provide an overall boost for a Montreal club that's 10 points out of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
"We need points, and we're fighting with other teams for a playoff spot," Drouin told NHL.com. "Every game I watched was harder and harder for me. It's tough, but it's part of hockey."
Regardless who is on the ice for the Canadiens, they'll try to stay hot on the road, where they outscored Ottawa and Philadelphia 6-2 over the last two away from home. Star netminder Carey Price was in goal for both of those contests, but allowed seven goals as Montreal split its last two games overall -- both at home.
Price has yielded 10 goals in his last two starts against Buffalo, which has won four of five over Montreal following a 5-4 overtime home victory on Oct. 9. Price did not play in that contest, as Sabres star Jack Eichel had two goals with two assists.
Eichel recorded his career-high 29th goal as Buffalo returned from the All-Star break Tuesday to drop its second in a row, 5-2 at home to Ottawa. Boasting the same 51 points as Montreal, Buffalo also faces a sense of urgency to make the playoffs and could have a harder time doing so with Ullmark out with a right leg injury for three to four weeks, according to the club.
Ullmark, 16-14-3 with a 2.72 goals-against average, injured the leg against Ottawa. Backup Carter Hutton, who has a 4.27 goals-against average during an 0-7-4 starting streak, and recent call-up and AHL All-Star Jonas Johansson appear to be the main options to step in for Ullmark.
"That's part of the game and we have to deal with it," coach Ralph Krueger told the Sabres' official website.
"Adversity is something you need to look in the eyes and you need to be strong about. You need to use it, and that's what we'll do here."
Hutton made 23 saves against Montreal in October. Eichel has 15 goals with 10 assists in his last 15 home games, and six points in his last two there against the Canadiens.
Ilya Kovalchuk has four goals with four assists in nine games since joining Montreal. Dating to November 2008, he has eight goals and four assists over eight games at Buffalo.
Montreal backup Charlie Lindgren has a 3.40 goals-against average in his three starts this season.
--Field Level Media