News that Gainey's 25-year-old daughter Laura was missing at sea for a third day attracted a mob of media and lent a sombre mood to the Canadiens practice at the Bell Centre on Monday. But the show goes on and the Canadiens will need to pull together to play well against Boston on Tuesday night.
"Everyone's in a state of shock now," said coach Guy Carbonneau. "But the best thing for us to do now is to hope for a miracle and keep winning.
"I think that's what Bob wants."
Laura Gainey was swept overboard the tall ship Picton Castle during a storm in the Atlantic Ocean on Friday night and has not been found. Gainey has temporarily left the team to be with his family.
Assistant GM Pierre Gauthier, who is handling Gainey's duties during his absence, president Pierre Boivin and other team officials visited the dressing room before practice to bring the players up to date on the situation.
The team also appealed to the media to stop trying to contact Gainey's 82-year-old mother, which a spokesman said has upset his other children Anna, Steve and Colleen.
The players only learned that the missing woman from the Picton Castle was Laura Gainey when they turned on their televisions or radios Sunday, when her identity was made public.
Carbonneau, who played with Gainey in the 1980s and later played for him in Dallas, knew about it on Saturday morning, but opted not to tell his players before or after their 3-2 shootout loss to Buffalo that night.
"I didn't want to distract the players," said Carbonneau. "I could have told them after the game, but I wasn't comfortable with that.
"Bob is a very private and discreet person. The name hadn't been released and Bob wanted that it not be known for as long as possible."
Carbonneau has been in daily contact by phone with Gainey. He said the GM was concerned about the team, but Carbonneau urged him to set that aside for now.
"That's the worst thing for a parent - to lose a child, no matter what the age," he said. "For sure, he was in a state of shock, but he's still strong mentally.
"Even today (Monday), he was as solid as he was Saturday morning when he called. He's still hoping like everyone else."
Carbonneau said he knew Laura Gainey mainly when she and her siblings were small children and Bob was still playing for Montreal.
That was before the first major crisis in the family, when Gainey's wife Cathy died in 1995 after a five-year battle with brain cancer.
Since then, the Gainey children have grown up and live in various cities in Canada and the United States, although they gathered together when Laura, the third eldest, went missing.
The crisis hit home with some players, like captain Saku Koivu, the father of a young family who survived a battle with cancer in 2001-02, and defenceman Mike Komisarek, who lost his mother to cancer during the 2005-06 season.
"I was so fortunate to be involved in an organization like the Montreal Canadiens, with they way they treated me and my family," said Komisarek. "I know what Bob's going through, but he's got this whole team behind him."
Now, the Canadiens hope to win a game for their general manager.
"It's not an easy situation," said Koivu. "Hockey is not the first thing on our minds right now.
"But the brutal reality is that life goes on. We have a game and we have to be ready to battle for the two points."
Boston has won five of its last seven games, including a 6-5 win in Montreal last week, although it is coming off a 5-1 loss to New Jersey on Saturday night.
The Bruins have an alarming situation of their own. Rookie Phil Kessel, drafted fifth overall last spring, left the team with an unidentified health problem on Monday and the family has appealed to the media for privacy.
The Canadiens will likely be without defenceman Sheldon Souray, who suffered a right wrist injury on Saturday night.
Souray, who scored his team-leading 11th goal in the game, did not practice on Monday. An MRI exam showed no broken bones and he is listed as day-to-day.
Defenceman Francis Bouillon, who returned Nov. 22 after off-season knee surgery, and winger Steve Begin, who has sore ribs, also missed practice and are not certain to play.
Winger Chris Higgins, who has missed 16 games with a sprained ankle, practised Monday but is not expected back in the lineup until later this week.