SUNRISE – A team that has confidence in all four of its lines is a team that wins games.
With two assists penciled in next to his name on the scoresheet from Tuesday’s game against the Lightning, Lars Eller – not to mention the rest of his line – is earning more respect and trust from head coach, Michel Therrien with every game he plays.
“Larry [Lars Eller] has always been an excellent defensive player. He skates well, he plays a strong game offensively and he’s got a lot of talent. It’s a pleasure to play with him,” offered Travis Moen, who scored his first goal of the season off a feed from Eller on Tuesday. “He’s a player whose game can really go through the roof when he’s playing with confidence. We had a good game together on Tuesday and we hope we can keep that kind of play going.”
If the way Therrien rolled his four lines against the Lightning is any indication, the Habs’ fourth line won’t have any trouble finding opportunities to prove themselves on a nightly basis.
“It’s great to see all four lines getting ice time like that. He has confidence in all of his lines and he didn’t hesitate to send us out there into the action,” continued Moen, who played 10:59 in the first game of the team’s Florida road trip, in addition to posting a plus-2 differential on the night. “It really doesn’t make a difference to us if we’re considered to be the fourth line or not.”
Bouncing between almost all of the Canadiens’ different lines since the beginning of the season, Eller seems to have found his niche centering Colby Armstrong and Moen – the latter of whom was also a big factor in Eller’s four-goal game against the Jets last year. Whether on the fourth line or the first, all that matters to Eller is how much production he can contribute when he leaps over the boards for a shift.
“Ideally you would always get to stay on the same line. But obviously that’s not how it works and things have a way of changing quickly,” admitted Eller, who has been a part of every Habs line, with the exception of the Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta and Rene Bourque trio. “I do my best to always take the same approach no matter who I find myself playing with.”
The appreciation for work put in by the Canadiens fourth liners wasn’t only notable on Tuesday’s scoresheet, but also in the words of their coach who is clearly satisfied by the effort put forth by the gritty trio.
“We spoke to them beforehand and explained to them that we were happy with their defensive game, and the work they were doing on the penalty kill, but that scoring only one goal for us in 11 games just wasn’t enough,” highlighted Therrien. “I think the message definitely got through and they answered the call and got us two goals. Over the course of a season, everyone needs to contribute and I certainly appreciate their game yesterday.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
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