Canadiens’ Brendan Gallagher confident he can bounce back

“I’m looking forward to this time to rebuild my body, to come back into (training) camp ready,” he says after battling injuries.

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The Canadiens’ Brendan Gallagher is looking forward to a long off-season to get his body back in shape.

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Gallagher struggled this season with 7-17-24 totals in 56 games and looked nothing like the player who had back-to-back 30-goal seasons in 2017-18 and 2018-19. Gallagher was on pace for a third straight 30-goal season in 2019-20 when he had 15 goals in 40 games before suffering a concussion that ended his streak of 229 consecutive games played. I have finished that season with 22 goals in 59 games.

Since then, Gallagher hasn’t been able to stay healthy.

Last season, he missed 21 games in the condensed 56-game schedule, scoring 14 goals in the 35 regular-season games he played. Gallagher played in all 22 playoff games as the Canadiens advanced to the Stanley Cup final while dealing with a groin injury, posting 2-4-6 totals.

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A very short summer break didn’t give Gallagher the time he would normally have to train in the gym and get his body back in shape for this season. This was also the first season of his new six-year, US$39-million contract with a $6.5 million salary-cap hit.

Again, I have tried to play through injuries this season.

“It was pretty much everything around the pelvis area that they were working on,” Gallagher said Saturday when asked about his injury issues this season. “One day, it would be one thing. The next day, it would be the next.

“I got my medical coming up, so that will be a long meeting,” he added with a chuckle.

Now, Gallagher will have more than four months off before training camp starts next season to get healthy. He turned down an invitation to play for Team Canada at the IIHF World Championship May 13-29 in Finland.

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“I’m looking forward to this time to rebuild my body, to come back into camp ready,” Gallagher said. “I take a lot of pride in being consistent. And to do that you need your body to feel good and feel like you can bring it every single night. That’s something I’m looking forward to getting back to.”

Gallagher added there’s “not a single doubt” he can get back to being the player he used to be with a healthy body heading into next season.

“I understand my production level was way down and there’s expectations for me and I understand I didn’t meet those expectations,” he said. “But there’s just a lot of things that I know that the outside world doesn’t really know that’s going on — and they probably won’t, to be honest, if that’s going to be your next question. But there’s just some things that I’m aware of and I understand that people are going to have those questions and those concerns and that’s all fair. I understand that as well. But for me, I’m 100-per-cent confident that I’ll get back to the level that I’m used to playing at here.

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“I did feel more comfortable in the last half of the year,” Gallagher added. “I know the numbers maybe don’t support it, but I did feel like I was getting back to me being me again, kind of driving the play and playing with the puck in the offensive zone and shift after shift just creating chances. That process was coming, so there’s a little something to build on. But for me as a player I don’t doubt that I’ll be able to come back next year and get back to the level I’m used to playing at.”

Gallagher was asked if the fact the careers of teammates Carey Price, 34, and Shea Weber, 36, could be over because of injuries creates any doubt in his mind about his own future with five seasons remaining on his contract.

“That’s fair to ask,” he said. “I guess for me as a player a big part of what I’ve been able to do is because of the off-season work I’ve been able to put in. I’m not fooling anyone — I’ve never been gifted with an elite talent. I’ve been able to build my body up. I think I’m a smart player, I think I compete really hard. But I’ve been able to build my body up to take on an 82-game season and be a consistent player and early on that was one of my strengths. Just be able to do it night after night. So I’m very confident.

“If I’m able to go back here, put in a good long summer and just build my body back up to what I’m used to having and used to relying on that I’ll be able to play for a long, long time,” Gallagher added. “I’m not thinking the end is near for me. I understand those questions are going to come and it’s totally fair. But for me, just knowing what I know it’s pretty easy for me to be confident going into next year.”

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