Breaking the ice

Tuesday, 22.01.2013 / 1:07 PM canadiens.com

MONTREAL – Habs fans will have a new line to look out for when the team hits the ice Tuesday night.

After watching Alex Galchenyuk make his NHL debut Saturday night against the Maple Leafs, Brendan Gallagher is ready to bring his own brand of hockey to the Bell Centre on Tuesday night. Not only will the 20-year-old forward be suiting up for his first regular season game as a member of the Canadiens, he’ll be doing so on a line with fellow rookie Galchenyuk, as well as Brandon Prust.

“It should be a great experience. Look at him smiling over there,” grinned Gallagher, glancing across the room as Galchenyuk observed his media scrum. “He’s a dynamic player – you all see what he can do with the puck. He’ll be a good player in this league for a long time to come. It’ll be great to play on a line with him and Prusty tonight.”

With two rookies playing on the same line, Michel Therrien needed to add a player to the mix that could help them command respect on the ice. Who better than the league’s busiest fighter to take on that role? In honor of the fact that 280 of his line’s 281 games of NHL experience come from Prust alone, Gallagher and Galchenyuk have already come up with a name for their veteran teammate.

“He’s going to be like the babysitter of our line,” joked Gallagher. “He’ll be taking care of us tonight.”

Prust won’t be the only one offering support against the Panthers on Tuesday. As Josh Gorges pointed out, the rookies will also be able to enjoy backup from the blue line as they settle into their respective roles.

“I don’t think we should change the way we play or anything. We’re going to expect a lot from these guys. We expect them to play a smart hockey game. We know that with young players, they don’t have a lot of experience, so there are going to be some mistakes made and some jitters and things like that,” explained Gorges, following the morning skate. “All we can do is make sure we’re in there to support them and if they do happen to make a mistake, we’re there to back them up and teach them along the way.”

While Gallagher will be making his official NHL debut against the Panthers, it won’t be his first taste of the Bell Centre atmosphere after having played five preseason games with the team at the beginning of 2011-12.

“I’ve played in some pretty important games in the past, but obviously nothing quite like this,” expressed the Edmonton, AB native who logged one assist and 14 shots in his exhibition games with the Habs last year. “I’ll thankfully be able to draw from those experiences for tonight and know all the little things I have to do. I have to stay within my game and not start trying to do things I wouldn’t normally do.”

Nerves might be only natural for a young player in his situation, and while a healthy dose of nervous energy is sure to be in order for Gallagher when the national anthems ring through the Bell Centre, don’t look for it to affect his confidence when the puck finally drops.

“I slept pretty well last night, but when I got here today, I immediately started to feel a little nervous,” admitted Gallagher. “At the end of the day’s it’s hockey, and you might be pretty excited and pretty nervous, but you still have to go out there and play your game.”

The Canadiens take on the Florida Panthers tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Bell Centre.

Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.

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