Montreal Canadiens Tampa Bay Florida U.S. road trip

The Montreal Canadiens are going ahead with their U.S road trip anyway

The Habs flew to Florida on Monday, minus yet another five players, plus a Taxi Squad of guys you’ve never heard of.

With the return of NHL games on Tuesday, the Montreal Canadiens have arrived Florida to face their Stanley Cup Finals foes the Tampa Bay Lightning. Aside from the long list of injured Habs players, the team is short another five guys on their U.S. road trip — namely goalie Jake Allen, Ben Chiarot, Joel Edmundson, Jeff Petry and Chris Wideman, whose wife gave birth to their first child just eight days ago.

All five have entered COVID protocol alongside goalie coach Éric Raymond, joining four other Habs players, namely Arrturi Lekhonen, Laurent Dauphin, Mike Hoffman and Tyler Toffoli. (Toffoli will be out of the picture until the second week of February following hand surgery.)

Today the team recalled goalie Cayden Primeau and Corey Schueneman from the Laval Rocket, and enlisted Brandon Baddock, Gianni Fairbrother, Cam Hillis and Michael McNiven to make up the “Taxi Squad” to travel with the Habs to Florida.

Cayden Primeau and Corey Schueneman were recalled from the Laval Rocket, and Brandon Baddock, Gianni Fairbrother, Cam Hillis and Michael McNiven make up the Taxi Squad.

In a press conference following this morning’s practice, Brendan Gallagher revealed that while Chiarot and Wideman are asymptomatic for now, Lekhonen experienced serious symptoms for the first two days, as Gallagher himself did in early December. When asked whether he feels safe travelling given spiking pandemic numbers in the U.S. as well as Canada, Gallagher said yes.

“My job is to go play hockey. I’m excited to get back in the lineup here. We wanna be safe, but we have a lot of trust in the people making these decisions. It’s something that the whole world is dealing with. If you do test positive, you do your part: spend your 10 days quarantining in the room and get through it.

“We’re trying to keep each other safe and stop the spread as best we can. Our guys here have done a really good job. Most of the time, when we have had positive cases, it hasn’t really spread. This time obviously it did.”

—Brendan Gallagher ahead of the Montreal Canadiens U.S. road trip

Montreal Canadiens Coach Dominique Ducharme acknowledged the possibility that more players could test positive upon arriving in Florida, or during the U.S. road trip, and face the consequences of becoming infected across the border. After Tampa, the Habs will travel to Raleigh, North Carolina to play the Hurricanes on Thursday and back to Florida to play the Panthers on Saturday afternoon.

The first Habs home game since the pre-Christmas cancellations is scheduled for Jan. 4, but it remains unknown whether fans will be permitted at the Bell Centre. The last Bell Centre game, a win for the Canadiens against the Philadelphia Flyers on Dec. 16, was played to an empty arena.

For more on the Montreal Canadiens, please visit the Habs website.

This article was originally published at 7:47 p.m. and updated at 8:33 p.m.

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