Phillip Danault Injured
Danault has apparently been playing “for a few days” with an unnamed injury, according to head coach Dominique Ducharme. In a press conference after the game, Ducharme reiterated that it did not seem to be serious.
The injury is clearly something the team or player – or both – don’t want to discuss this close to the playoffs. Danault left Wednesday’s game against the Ottawa Senators early as well, though he reached the 16-minute mark for ice time then. Against the Leafs he didn’t manage four, and left the team short-handed for the rest of the game.
Whatever injury he has, he clearly thought he could play through it. Ducharme says he had no indication that Danault would be unable to play before the game. It remains to be seen whether the team will rest him completely for the playoffs or have him day-to-day for now.
What This Means
Danault is a big part of the Canadiens. The veteran centre has been a vital buffer for the very young Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. He and Jake Evans are the primary shut-down centres, freeing Suzuki and Kotkaniemi for attacking roles. Still, with Montreal virtually – if not mathematically yet – a lock for a playoff spot, it is probably a good idea to give him some time off, even if it is just for one game.
If Danault can recover what’s ailing him without surgery, then now is the time to do it. Suzuki isn’t completely unfamiliar with penalty killing, and there are wingers who have experience at centre. The Vancouver Canucks may have five games in hand, but even five straight wins wouldn’t be enough to close the 14-point gap.
Even with just three games remaining in the regular season, the Habs have time.