Canadiens' Brendan Gallagher has beaten the odds to reach 700 games

Feisty forward has overcome a litany of injuries to reach milestone and still goes to the tough areas in front of the opposing team’s net.

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Earlier in his career, when it seemed Brendan Gallagher was plagued by a litany of injuries, it didn’t seem possible he’d still be playing more than a decade later, let alone make it to 700 games.

Not only did the Canadiens’ pesky winger reach that plateau on Monday night against Seattle, he has yet to miss a game this season, vowing in September at the team’s annual golf tournament he would play smarter while not necessarily altering his style.

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“I’m really proud of it,” Gallagher told the Montreal Gazette after Wednesday morning’s practice at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard. “Last couple of days I’ve gotten a lot of texts and messages from a lot of really important people in my career. There were so many people along the way, going back to my junior days, that helped me.

“I also look forward to the next couple hundred, hopefully, and keep going forward. I’m proud to have done it all here. Obviously you know the way I play, a lot of people doubted if that ever was going to happen. It’s the only way I really know how to play. To do it all here in Montreal … it’s special.”

The love affair between Gallagher, now in his 12th season with Montreal, and Canadiens fans was apparent on Monday, when his milestone was announced and Bell Centre spectators began chanting his name.

“That was pretty unexpected, but it means a lot,” the 31-year-old winger said. “When I went home and thought about the game, that was the thing that really stuck out to me. I’m really fortunate to be received the way I am. That was pretty special.”

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Gallagher missed 104 games over the previous four seasons due to a combination of broken bones and concussion. Last season alone he fractured his ankle twice and was limited to 37 games. He hasn’t played a full season since consecutive campaigns in 2017-18 and ’18-19. That also was when he was at the top of his game offensively, producing 31- and 33-goal seasons respectively.

Heading into Thursday night’s home encounter against Los Angeles, Gallagher has five goals and 10 points while having to adjust to a different, slightly reduced role at times. While being utilized with different linemates — Tanner Pearson and Christian Dvorak are the latest — Gallagher has been averaging slightly less than 14 minutes’ ice time.

While he remains a thorn in teams’ sides — Gallagher has a modest 15 hits along with 20 penalty minutes — and continues parking his 5-foot-9, 183-pound body in front of opposing goaltenders, he has learned to pick his battles more judiciously.

“Obviously there’s some wear and tear throughout the year, but my body’s holding up well,” he said. “I’m in a position where I’m still able to go out there and do what I do. I’m feeling really confident.

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“Just kind of picking and choosing your spots. There’s times when it’s important to engage. It’s having a mindset that maybe, some nights, it (physicality) doesn’t have to be in play. You can be a little intelligent and get the same results. It’s game-by-game and so far I’ve been doing pretty good.”

Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis, undersized himself, played more than 1,100 games in his NHL career. He, better than most, understands what Gallagher has had to overcome.

“It means consistency,” St. Louis said following practice. “You don’t get to that without being consistent with your body of work, and Gally got to 700 games not the easy way. The way he plays, the style he plays. To get to that number, and you’re not 100 per cent all the time. I have a lot of respect for Gally when I played against him and now, obviously, that I’m with him each and every day. It makes a lot of sense why he’s reaching that milestone.”

The Canadiens and Kings met on Nov. 25 in Los Angeles. Montreal, playing its second game in as many days and in the midst of a five-game road trip, was shut out for the first time this season. The Kings are undefeated in 10 road games, matching an NHL record from the start of a season. Samuel Montembeault is scheduled to start in net for Montreal.

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