TAMPA, Fla. — When the Stanley Cup Final shifts to Montreal for Games 3 and 4, the Canadiens expect to have coach Dominique Ducharme back behind their bench.
Ducharme was required by provincial protocol in Quebec to isolate for 14 days after testing positive for the coronavirus. That two-week period ends Friday, just in time for Game 3 against the Tampa Bay Lightning that night.
Canadiens players say Ducharme has actively participated in meetings virtually while assistant Luke Richardson handles the daily duties in person.
“He’s involved in the process,” defenseman Jon Merrill said Wednesday. “Not obviously as much as he was before he got struck with COVID, but he’s definitely still a big part of this team and we look forward to seeing him when we get back to Montreal.”
Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he empathizes with Ducharme missing out on the opportunity to coach the first two games of his first final.
“I know personally it would be killing you inside to miss the grandest ball of them all, and that’s the Stanley Cup Final,” said Cooper, who is coaching in his third. “This is a time you should enjoy, and for him to have a team be in the final and not be part of it, I feel for him, even if he’s the competition. You want a team to have its full slate of players and the entire coaching staff. You really want guys to experience this and one day tell their kids, ‘I coached in the Stanley Cup Final.’”
Brendan Gallagher got up from being body-slammed to the ice late in Game 1 with blood streaming from his forehead looking like the face of playoff hockey. The tough-as-nails 5-foot-9 Canadiens forward was still sporting scars from that Wednesday but said he not suffered a concussion.
“They obviously asked,” Gallagher said. “Any time you get hit in the head, they ask. I have a pretty specific way of reacting when I have a concussion. It usually involves me yelling a lot. I think the trainers understood, I was pretty calm. They’ve seen me when I have those things and there were no worries there.”
Gallagher said he was checked again Tuesday and doctors were not concerned.
“I took a pretty good shot,” he said. “The ice is pretty hard but felt fine and ready to move on.”
Richardson said Gallagher’s face “looks like a road map.” He was never worried about Gallagher missing time in the final.
“Gally is Gally — he’s got marks all over his face every game,” Richardson said. “He’ll be there battling and in everybody’s face at the crease the same as he always is. He is a warrior and we count on him to be that way.”
The Lightning got approval to host 18,600 fans for Game 2, up from 16,300 in Game 1. That’s almost full capacity and a far cry from the 3,500 currently allowed at Bell Centre in Montreal. Canadiens executive vice president and chief commercial officer France Margaret Bélanger said the team is in talks with local officials and asked to increase capacity to 10,500 for Games 3 and 4.
“We certainly hope to welcome 10,500 fans and we’ll be ready to because we’re preparing,” she said Tuesday. “We’re wishing with all our heart to welcome our fans, so that our fans in very large numbers can transmit their energy to their team.”