BROSSARD – With his team in need of a jump-start, Michel Therrien shuffled the deck and came up with a proven combination.
While the Canadiens have generated its share of scoring chances in its recent outings, the team has been unable to light the lamp on a regular basis, as evidenced by the Habs’ three-game losing skid. In an effort to correct the trend, Coach Therrien sent newly acquired Thomas Vanek to the starboard side of 30-goal scorer Max Pacioretty and noted playmaker David Desharnais. That move allowed veteran Daniel Briere to slot back in with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta, setting the stage for the reunion of a “kid line” which terrorised opposing netminders at the early stages of the 2013-14 season.
“We know each other very well and we’re very comfortable playing with each other. I look forward to Saturday,” offered Lars Eller. Centering sophomore forwards Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher at the start of the campaign, the Dane had nine points in 13 games during the month of October and led the team in goals during the early stages of the season. “I always like playing with those two. We have fun playing together and have different assets which gel well together. We’re always creating scoring chances out there, and when you do that the goals will follow.”
“It’s nothing new for us, and we’re just focused on helping the team as much as possible,” added a stoic Galchenyuk, who also had nine points alongside Eller and Gallagher in the first month of the season, and 26 in total playing with a variety of linemates. “We hope it’ll be a good thing for the team. We’re just excited to be playing together again.”
Brendan Gallagher summed up what fans can expect from the reunion.
“Lars is a big, powerful guy who skates well. He’s at his best when he is using those tools to open up the ice. He also has a great shot. Alex has exceptional vision and can pull off plays that seem impossible. As for me, I try to work hard and out-hustle people to the puck,” the energetic right winger described. “We have a lot of fun playing together.”
“We need to find solutions and score more goals, we are conscious of that. We believe that the changes are part of the solution,” said Michel Therrien after Friday’s practice. “We had good chemistry at the start of the season and now we’re going to revisit that combination to balance our offense and create more chances.”
Indeed, Montreal currently sits in the bottom-five of the league in terms of even-strength goals scored and is looking to do more with its talented line-up. Recent signs have been encouraging, however. In its past seven outings, Montreal has come out on top in the puck possession battle against the Penguins, the Leafs, the Ducks and the Bruins. An improved conversion rate on scoring chances as well as a better powerplay success percentage will go a long way for a club which has managed to stay in the playoff hunt even with the continued absence of their number one netminder.
“I hope that not just us, but everybody gets a spark from the line changes. We’ve lost three in a row so it’s time to get back on track. It’s not just about one or a couple of guys, it’s about everybody playing better,” Eller conluded.
Jack Han is a writer for canadiens.com.
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