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Montreal Canadiens back on the ice following COVID-19-related shutdown

The Montreal Canadiens resumed training on Sunday morning at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard, following a long break caused by a major outbreak of COVID-19 among players.

A total of 21 players, in addition to the coaching staff, took to the ice.

During a video conference Sunday, head coach Dominique Ducharme said the team had been through a lot since the start of the season, and that he hoped the worst was now behind them.

Ducharme admitted that the recent injuries that plagued the team and the number of players placed on the NHL COVID-19 protocol were out of his control.

“It seems like every day I got (bad) news. You can control some things, but there has been a lot of adversity, bad news. At the same time, we now hope we have had the worst. We look forward to the next few weeks and we see players who are about to come back.”

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Among those who trained Sunday were goaltenders Jake Allen and Samuel Montembeault, as well as defencemen Ben Chiarot and Chris Wideman. Allen, one of the many Habs players who tested positive for COVID-19 in December, reflected on his experience.

“It was good to be back, because I did not participate in the last trip and I did not have access to the rink in Brossard since December 19,” Allen said.

“But I was lucky I had virtually no symptoms (of COVID-19),” he continued. “I was congested for maybe a day, but that was it. I was lucky and so was my family. It was difficult because I couldn’t make it to the arena — it was probably the longest absence in the middle of the season, away from the ice, from my career, but an extraordinary period demands special measures.

“So I did a stationary bike, dumbbells and went out for some walks. That’s pretty much all we could do. I also analyzed video from my past matches, in the hope to remain ready to play,” added the 31-year-old goalkeeper.

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Forwards Josh Anderson and Mike Hoffman also skated, but they were wearing no-contact jerseys. Joel Armia and Christian Dvorak, who have already tested positive for COVID-19, wore navy blue sweaters indicating that their state of health is reassessed on a daily basis.

“They (Hoffman, Anderson and Dvorak) are day by day, as is Armia. Are they going to be in the first game of the next trip, against the Boston Bruins? We can’t say yet. But these four guys are getting closer to a comeback,” Ducharme said.

Nick Suzuki, Ryan Poehling, Cole Caufield, Sami Niku, Laurent Dauphin, Jonathan Drouin, Artturi Lehkonen, Michael McNiven, Cédric Paquette, David Savard, Corey Schueneman and Lukas Vejdemo also trained.

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The Canadiens sent goaltender Michael McNiven back down to the Laval Rockets. Cayden Primeau will join the club’s reserve squad in Boston.

Quebecer Jean-Sébastien Dea, one of the few players to be under contract with the Montreal organization who has not been recalled as an emergency measure in recent weeks due to the many cases of the coronavirus, trained with the Habs Sunday. The bleu-blanc-rouge announced that Dea had been recalled from the Rockets and assigned to the team’s reserve squad.

The team is not out of the woods yet, since it still has 16 players subject to the league’s protocol to fight COVID-19.

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Ducharme also briefly discussed the state of health of Brendan Gallagher, who has not played since Dec. 30, 2021 against the Carolina Hurricanes.

“I ran into Gally earlier, and he looks better, but there is still some way to go. It is still too early to say when he will be able to join the group,” Ducharme said, adding that the situation was similar to that facing goaltender Carey Price.

Meanwhile, Tyler Toffoli skated solo after Sunday’s regular training practice, which means he should have completed the coronavirus protocol. However, it is not known when he will join the group.

The Canadiens had suspended all team activities the day after their Jan. 1, 5-2 loss to the Florida Panthers.

The team’s next scheduled game is Jan. 12 against the Bruins in Boston.

The Habs resume training on Monday in Brossard.

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