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Canadiens look for Drouin to provide spark

Montreal Canadiens' Alex Galchenyuk (27) celebrates with teammates Phillip Danault (24), Andrew Shaw (65), Shea Weber (6) and Victor Mete (53) after scoring against the Ottawa Senators during the first period of an NHL preseason hockey game in Montreal, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)

MONTREAL (AP) Brendan Gallagher's wish for the NHL season is to stay healthy and rediscover his scoring touch.

The Montreal right-winger slumped to only 10 goals and 29 points in 64 games while dealing with injuries for a second season in a row. He is eager to make amends.

The Canadiens will need him back in form because the boost they got on offense from the acquisition of 22-year-old Jonathan Drouin in June was offset when Alexander Radulov signed as a free agent with the Dallas Stars. Losing puck-moving defenseman Andrei Markov to the KHL won't help, either.

Veterans like Tomas Plekanec and Alex Galchenyuk will also need to pick up their pace after their production dipped last season.

"There were games where I felt I played good and just didn't get rewarded, but I pride myself on being a consistent player and that really wasn't what I was last year," said Gallagher, a 24-goal scorer two seasons ago when he played a full 82 games. "Too many ups and downs. That's something I'm looking to change this year."

Offense was the main concern for Montreal after a first-round loss to the New York Rangers scuttled hopes for a promising postseason run after a 103-point regular season.

Fixing that problem will be up to coach Claude Julien, who was brought back for a second stint in Montreal in February to replace the fired Michel Therrien. Julien has had a full training camp to install the changes he was reluctant to make late in the season, but lack of scoring punch has also been a problem in preseason.

Drouin could move from wing to center. He spent the summer training with captain and 35-goal scorer Max Pacioretty, who will likely be his linemate. But Drouin may make the biggest difference on the power play, which has lacked a playmaking forward who can take attention away from veteran point man Shea Weber.

To fill a hole on right wing, Montreal brought in veteran Ales Hemsky, who was limited by an injury to only 15 games with Dallas last season. Hemsky signed a one-year deal at $1 million.

"I just want to prove to myself that I can play in this league," said the 34-year-old Czech. "I played the last 15 games last year and it gave me a lot of confidence that I can come back and still play. We'll see how the body will react."

Plekanec, formerly an automatic 20-goal guy, dipped to only 10 goals and 18 assists last season. Julien has met with the veteran center to see how he can be more productive.

"It's up to him to get it back," said Julien. "He's a guy who is very dependable defensively but he's capable of playing well on offense, too."

Galchenyuk was limited by injuries to 61 games and saw his goals drop from 30 to 17. He was the subject of trade rumors this summer until he inked a three-year contract. And Julien made it clear from the start Galchenyuk will play left wing.

The Canadiens also hope Artturi Lehkonen takes another step after a promising 18-goal rookie campaign, while speedy Paul Byron is back after a 22-goal performance, second best on the team.

There will be a new look on defense after Markov left, Alexei Emelin was claimed in the expansion draft and Nathan Beaulieu was traded to Buffalo. All three played on the left side.

Part of that was filled with the signing off free agent Karl Alzner, who was immediately paired with puck-mover Jeff Petry. Weber could find a partner in Jordie Benn, free agent signing David Schlemko,39-year-old Mark Streit or the impressive Victor Mete.

It is in goal where there are no question marks. Carey Price is back with a new eight-year, $84 million contract that kicks in next season. Al Montoya is the backup ahead of prospect Charlie Lindgren.

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Updated October 3, 2017

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