James O'Brien

MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 12:  Brendan Gallagher #11 of the Montreal Canadiens reacts on a goal during the NHL game against the Detroit Red Wings at the Bell Centre on November 12, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Detroit Red Wings 5-0.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Gallagher could be back to boost Canadiens’ struggling offense soon

Leave it to a hockey player to defy injury recovery windows.

Back in early January, the Montreal Canadiens believed that Brendan Gallagher would miss a “minimum” of eight weeks after hand surgery. While NHL.com notes that Michel Therrien ruled Gallagher out of Montreal’s next two games, it sounds like the agitating young forward could be back soon.

In other words, he might be back closer to six weeks after that surgery.

One wonders if his team’s relative recent struggles might give him the extra motivation to return sooner than expected.

The Canadiens have lost three games in a row and four of their last five. They’ve only scored three goals during this three-game skid and four in those four losses, with a 5-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres being the standout for an otherwise struggling offense.

Gallagher’s had a rough year in his own right. He managed a single goal and zero assists in his last 11 games, so this procedure could be key for a forward who was quietly moving up the ranks among agitating scorers before these stumbles.

The Canadiens face the Avalanche on Tuesday and the Coyotes on Thursday, both games on the road and both games with Gallagher believed to be unavailable.

The Habs play back-to-back games this weekend (home vs. Blues on Saturday, at Bruins on Sunday), followed by a bye week. Those back-to-back games could be a good opportunity to ease Gallagher back in, though if they opt to give him extra rest this weekend, they’d buy him more time while limiting the drawbacks for his team.

Whatever the case may be, Gallagher’s return will be welcome, and he could get enough time to shake off any rust before the playoffs kick in.

Report: NHL will ask players to review ice conditions this month

NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 27:  An ice resurfacing machine does it's job prior to the game between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on November 27, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Flyers 2-1 in the shoot out.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

When you think of the prettiest pictures in hockey, a clean sheet of ice is up there. We’ve seen plenty of examples of NHL players complaining about the exact opposite – and not just in Brooklyn – but it sounds like the league is going to the players to try to solve this problem.

Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reports that following each game, players will fill out forms reviewing ice conditions from each period.

It’s dubbed the NHLPA/NHL Playing Environment subcommittee, which gives off a bit of a “sandwich artist” vibe, but is still a sound idea.

The surveys are meant to provide NHL ice expert/Winter Classic ice surface wizard Dan Craig with information he can use to improve conditions. It’s worth noting that the league prompted teams to do a “better job” avoiding bad ice in late January.

Renaud Lavoie provides additional details in the Journal de Montreal (in French), including that all players will fill out the form. His report asserts that many believe that league scoring issues could be solved in part by improving ice quality, especially at struggling rinks.

Players have made the most noise lately about the playing surface for the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Still, it’s worth noting that a Red Wings – Hurricanes game was postponed due to issues and fans of teams like the Washington Capitals have become seasoned in complaints about their teams’ surfaces.

While it remains to be seen how much power the league has over improving ice conditions in places that are prone to issues – whether the factors are related to weather or arenas that were never intended to house NHL teams – asking the players makes a whole lot of sense.

Bonus points if this means fewer issues during the playoffs, when the fun – and heat – really ramps up anyway.

WATCH LIVE: Los Angeles Kings at Tampa Bay Lightning

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 16:  Luke Witkowski #28 of the Tampa Bay Lightning checks Kyle Clifford #13 of the Los Angeles Kings during the first period at Staples Center on January 16, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Los Angeles Kings can reminisce a bit about better times that happened not that long ago. Winning tonight could help one of them inch a little closer to those glory days.

Things aren’t as dire for the Kings.

At the moment, they have a loose grip on the first wild card spot out West, and games in hand are to their advantage. It’s not exactly a bullet-proof position, but all things considered, they’re surviving.

The Lightning must continue to wrestle with questions regarding their relevance, at least as far as the 2016-17 season goes. Their 52 points in 53 games isn’t catastrophic – look at the Avalanche and their 30 out West – it’s still bad enough that the Bolts are ranked last in the East.

Is it time to punt or should they keep fighting for the playoffs? Nights like these could make an impact on such decisions.

You can watch the action on NBCSN, online and via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.

Video: Jeremy Roenick goes ‘Off Script’ on his NHL career


Jeremy Roenick went “Off Script” with Kathryn Tappen on NBCSN on Monday, resulting in the former NHL providing insight on a variety of topics.

Roenick’s been a dream fit for the studio in many ways, but a more free-flowing conversation is an even better fit for a player who once traded barbs with Patrick Roy … and plenty of other players and coaches.

Speaking of his interactions with coaches, Roenick said that he has some regrets for how he interacted with Darryl Sutter:

It’s no secret that Roenick believes that “Iron” Mike Keenan helped to mold his rugged game, making him more than just a potent scorer. You can hear him discuss how that fear factor impacted JR in this clip.

There was rarely a dull moment in Roenick’s playing career, so it makes sense that he was such an engaging guest on “Off Script.”

Islanders rally for zany OT win vs. Leafs; Bruins drop out of playoff position

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 23: Brock Nelson #29 and Thomas Greiss #1 of the New York Islanders celebrate their 6-3 victory over the Minnesota Wild at the Barclays Center on October 23, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The next month-and-a-half could bring the Doug Weight honeymoon period to a screeching halt for the New York Islanders, but the good feelings lasted at least one more night.

Mike Babcock? He’s probably not feeling too happy.

The Toronto Maple Leafs did salvage a standings point, and their young guns did look great on Monday, but Babs is likely fuming about a 6-5 overtime win for the Islanders. He’ll be unhappy with the wide-open game, and also probably with the fact that Andrew Ladd‘s tying goal came with just 1:29 left in the third.

Still, those Leafs kids are alright:

The Maple Leafs squandered leads of 2-1, 4-2 and 5-4 in eventually losing to the red-hot Islanders. Brock Nelson was one of the Islanders’ biggest heroes, scoring two goals, including the overtime-clincher.

The good and the bad for each team

Looking at the big picture, it’s more of a mixed bag for both teams.

Yes, the Maple Leafs suffered from the downside of a wide-open style:

Still, it’s easy to forget that the Maple Leafs were closing off a six-game road trip. Tuesday begins a four-game homestand and they play eight of their next 10 games at home. Even with a congested schedule, the Maple Leafs gain great opportunities to put even more distance between themselves and the Boston Bruins.

Tonight’s single point pushes Toronto to third in the Atlantic while the B’s fell out of the East’s top eight altogether:

Top five in Atlantic:

Canadiens – 68 points in 54 games
Senators – 60 points in 50 games
Maple Leafs – 58 in 51

Bruins – 58 in 55
Panthers – 56 in 52

East wild card races

Rangers – 67 in 52
Flyers – 59 in 54

Bruins – 58 in 55
Islanders – 56 in 51
Panthers – 56 in 52
Devils – 56 in 54 (New Jersey beat Buffalo 2-1 on Monday)

See full standings here.

As you can see, the Islanders find themselves in a remarkable spot. When you consider their games in hand edge over the Bruins and Flyers, their playoff dreams seem surprisingly reasonable right now.

There’s some reason to believe that Weight & Co. might stumble, however.

The Islanders play three of their next four games on the road, but the challenges get scarier as you head into mid-March. Just three of their next 16 games take place in Brooklyn, with a nine-game road trip from Feb. 21 – March 11 standing as the biggest hurdle to clear.

So, yeah, the Maple Leafs’ and Islanders’ schedule argue that these two teams could be feeling very differently in the next few weeks.

Then again, such thoughts cement this as a pretty important win for the Islanders. They might just be able to withstand the challenges ahead if they continue to gather momentum.