BROSSARD, Que. – Even his teammates were surprised to see Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty skating full speed at practice on Thursday.
The young winger was nailed by a shot from defenceman James Wisniewski in the first period of a 2-1 overtime loss in Buffalo on Tuesday night. Pacioretty left the ice in obvious pain and there were concerns he could be out for a month with suspected fractured ribs.
But what looked to be a disastrous night on the injury front may not have been quite as bad as the Canadiens feared.
”I was shocked to see him on the plane,” centre Scott Gomez said of his linemate. ”It was scary to see what happened, but he’s a tough guy. It was good to see a couple of guys back on the ice.”
Coach Jacques Martin said Pacioretty may even be fit to play Friday night against the Senators in Ottawa, although centre Ryan White was called up from Hamilton of the American Hockey League just in case.
Also back after missing two games with flu symptoms was winger Benoit Pouliot, ready to move back onto his line with David Desharnais and Mathieu Darche.
Centre Jeff Halpern tried skating Thursday but had to stop early. There were reports he suffered a concussion against the Sabres but Martin would only say that he suffered an upper-body injury.
Halpern won’t make the trip to Ottawa and is considered day to day.
The Canadiens called up six-foot-four centre Andreas Engqvist from Hamilton on Wednesday to fill Halpern’s checking and penalty killing jobs.
Then there’s sniper Michael Cammalleri, who left the Buffalo game with a suspected separated shoulder after he was knocked into the boards by defenceman Mike Weber. He was placed on the seven-day injured list and will be out at least until after next week’s all-star game and probably a week or two longer.
”Upper-body injury, that’s what I’ve been told to say,” said Cammalleri.
He also declined comment on whether he felt Weber’s blindside hit deserved more than the two-minute penalty it incurred.
The Canadiens were already without defencemen Josh Gorges and Andrei Markov due to season-ending knee injuries. Montreal has still managed to go 6-1-2 in its last nine games.
Now the team’s depth will be tested even more.
”Injuries are the worst part of this business,” said Cammalleri. ”But every team deals with it at some point in their season.
”I think we’ll be OK. Last year we had a big stretch right around now that ended up putting us in the playoffs, so let’s hope the same thing happens again.”
Despite a depleted bench, the Canadiens hung in against Buffalo until Gomez was called for retaliating after a Patrick Kaleta cross-check and the Sabres scored in overtime on the power play.
”To get a point was great, but let’s face it, I cost us a chance for two,” said Gomez. ”That’s frustrating, but we’ve faced adversity before.
”Injuries will happen and key guys will go down. But the way the young guys responded and (goaltender Carey) Price kept us in there, we got a point out of it.”
Most of the talk around Montreal this week was about rookie defenceman P.K. Subban’s celebration of an overtime goal Monday against Calgary, which gave the Habs a 5-4 win after blowing a four-goal lead.
Instead of turning to his teammates, Subban made a graceful glide out to centre ice, sliding one glove behind him and then simulated an archer firing an arrow into the crowd. Some fans and media felt it was over the top and wondered if Gomez and other veterans avoided congratulating Subban afterward.
”I was upset with the fact that we gave up a four-goal lead at this time of the season when we need the points,” he said. ”There’s no issue (with Subban).
”He scored a great overtime goal. We were laughing about the celebration choice. He’s a teammate, a friend. He’s a kid we look out for. Everyone’s been talking about it, my neighbours and everything. He’s a good kid. We were teasing him about the celebration but hey, you score an overtime goal. …”
Martin did not say whether Price or backup Alex Auld will start in Ottawa.
The Canadiens return home Saturday night to face Anaheim. It will be former team captain Saku Koivu’s first game in Montreal since he left as a free agent after the 2008-’09 season.