Despite his struggles, Canadiens not giving up on Josh Anderson

“We know Josh can score goals in this league. … This year most likely is going to be a one-off,” head coach Marty St. Louis says.

Nearing the end of his worst season with the Canadiens, Anderson probably can’t wait until it’s over. Only then will he be able to disappear into the summer heat and reflect on what went wrong and how he can bounce back next season.

“I think these last few games are really important, individually and for our team,” Anderson, 29, said after Monday’s practice at the Bell Centre, during which the team photo was taken. “I hope to have the opportunity to do the right things and get back to my game. Use my speed and my physicality while trying to shoot as many pucks as I can. Keep it simple.”

Now in his eighth full NHL season, only once has Anderson failed to hit double digits in goals. That occurred in 2019-20, when he underwent season-ending shoulder surgery and was limited to 26 games.

But heading into Tuesday night’s home game against Florida (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN Radio-690, 98.5 FM), Anderson has eight goals and 18 points in 69 games. He has been playing on a line with Jake Evans and Jesse Ylönen.

Management remains in his corner.

“I think the effort is there,” head coach Martin St. Louis said Monday. “I think the intentions are there. It could be a hard year for him, right. I think he expects more. I think he was snake-bitten for a while. I felt he was coming. Then the injury happened.”

Anderson didn’t score his first goal until Dec. 4, against Seattle, and it was fired into an empty net. He had a five-game stretch later that month in which he scored five goals and an assist, but then he struggled again — held to one goal over seven games — before missing four January games with a lower-body injury. In 28 games since then, he has scored once, his last goal coming March 2.

“He came back and it seemed like he’s kind of been chasing the season a little bit,” St. Louis said. “It can be hard mentally on a player. For him, it’s just about trying to find some confidence down the stretch and to feel good about himself going into the summer.

“We know Josh can score goals in this league. He has proven to be a 20-goal scorer. This year most likely is going to be a one-off. There’s a lot (of good) in that player. We know what he can bring. He hasn’t forgotten how to score goals, but it’s tough sometimes because the game gets hard a little bit. And it’s hard to come out of it. We know there’s more in there and he’ll get that back.”

Will GM Kent Hughes be willing to bring back Anderson at that price? Or can he find a trade partner willing to take on that salary over the summer? Anderson doesn’t become an unrestricted free agent until the end of the 2026-27 season, when he’ll be 33.

Anderson still believes he has something to contribute from a physical aspect moving forward. And he brings assets as a power forward the team needs.

“Everything starts with the player,” St. Louis said. “What he does this summer. Having a chance to reflect when the season’s over. Us as a staff, too, with him. You go through each and every player and look where he needs to get better. You try to have a plan with him. There’s still room for growth there. To me, the answers are everywhere. You have to find the answers for him, try to work on it and go apply it. We’ll support him and try to get him to a good place.”

Note: Samuel Montembeault will start in goal against the Panthers, St. Louis announced Tuesday morning.

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