Injuries to Alex Galchenyuk and David Desharnais have forced the Montreal Canadiens to shuffle their forward lines around as they try to survive without two of their top offensive players. The loss of Galchenyuk was particularly difficult as the fifth-year pivot was averaging nearly a point-per game (23 points in 25 games) as the team’s top center but the play of Phillip Danault has helped offset Galchenyuk’s absence of late, writes Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette.
With a scoring line of 6 – 6 – 14 through 34 contests, Danault has already bested last season’s totals (4 – 6 – 10) in 17 fewer games. In his last eight games, the 23-year-old center has tallied one goal and five points. As Cowan notes, Danault posted solid offensive numbers during his junior career, potting 18 goals and 71 points in 62 contests in his final junior season with Victoriaville, suggesting his recent rate of production for Montreal is sustainable.
Danault was originally drafted in the first-round of the 2011 draft by Chicago when current Habs GM Marc Bergevin was a member of the Blackhawks front office. Bergevin was able to acquire Danault at last season’s trade deadline as part of the deal that sent rental players Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann to the Hawks. Known as a strong two-way player in juniors, Danault is taking advantage of increased ice time of late to show the Canadiens what he can do at the NHL level.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic Division:
- Tim Kennedy hasn’t appeared in an NHL game in three years and despite a recent return to the organization with whom he made his NHL debut, it’s not likely that the veteran winger will make much of an impact for the Buffalo Sabres this year either. As John Vogl of The Buffalo News writes, Kennedy was signed by the club to add some offense and to serve as a mentor for the team’s prospects playing for the Rochester Americans in the AHL. Since suiting up for 37 games with the Coyotes during the 2013-14 campaign, Kennedy has made appearances for four different franchises in four different countries, including stops in the KHL, Swedish League and a 75-game stint with Hershey of the AHL in 2013-14. The piece provides an interesting insight into the life of a career minor-league player and his travels around the world in professional hockey.
- With the Tampa Bay Lightning struggling on the ice and in the standings, a return of franchise center Steven Stamkos could be just the spark the team needs to make a playoff push. Unfortunately, while Stamkos is progressing just fine after surgery to repair a torn meniscus, he is still looking at a mid-March return, as Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Stamkos is still on crutches and is a month or two away from even putting on skates. The 26-year-old pivot was off to a strong start, with nine goals and 20 points in 17 contests before the injury but if Tampa Bay is going to make a postseason run, it looks like it’s going to have to come without the assistance of Stamkos.