BROSSARD – One of the minor surprises at the Canadiens training camp so far has been the coaching staff’s decisions regarding line combinations. While many teams use the first part of the preseason to experiment with different forward lines and defense pairings, coach Michel Therrien preferred to put his trust in a tried-and-true formula.
“I want to give the combinations a fair chance. There are different ideas in the back of my mind, but [the current lines] are a part of our plan,” he explained.
The main holdover from last year’s strong season was the trio composed of youngsters Alex Galchenyuk, Lars Eller and Brendan Gallagher. During the 2012-13 regular season, the three players spent a total of 42:55 together and the line held a plus/minus rating of plus-3, tied for the team lead.
“[Eller and Gallagher] bring a lot of energy. It’s fun playing with them, and it’s nothing new since we played a lot together last year,” said Galchenyuk, who scored a goal during the second scrimmage on Friday. The assists, unsurprisingly, went to Gallagher and Eller.
|RAW: Lars Eller|
Meanwhile, the dynamic duo of Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais linked up with newly acquired forward Daniel Briere on Team White. Early signs point to Pacioretty being the main trigger man on the line, while Desharnais and Briere have been more intent on passing the puck and setting up their teammates rather than taking shots themselves. The line was held off the scoresheet in the two scrimmages to date, but has generated its fair share of scoring chances.
On the other end of the ice, two veterans on Team Red found themselves in the same boat as Pacioretty and Desharnais. Tomas Plekanec and Rene Bourque have played with each other quite a bit since the latter’s arrival from Calgary. In Brossard, they were joined by second-year pro Christian Thomas, whose style reminded Bourque of their usual right winger, Habs captain Brian Gionta. While Gionta recuperates from offseason surgery, Thomas will have a sought-after chance to put his speed and shooting abilities to use on a scoring line alongside two established veterans.
“He’s a gritty little player,” said Bourque of Thomas. “It’s a great opportunity for him to show what he can bring. I think he’ll keep it simple like [Gionta]. He’s a little bit quiet and he doesn’t know a lot of the guys yet. I’m sure he’ll open up a little bit the next few days.”
The Habs’ projected top three forward lines may appear set for now, but two forwards made themselves noticed at the Friday scrimmage for different reasons. Tough guy Nick Tarnasky was a physical presence and welcomed rookie Michael McCarron to the pros with a couple of solid hits, while diminutive Slovak Martin Reway beat Carey Price with a highlight reel move during the first period. The five-foot-eight, 170-pound Reway was passed over by 29 other teams a few times before the Canadiens drafted him with the 116th pick of this summer’s NHL Entry Draft. Following Friday’s scrimmage, Therrien was full of praise for both Reway and the men responsible for bringing him to Montreal.
“[Reway] had a great rookie camp and is playing well so far. He is a player with a lot of skill who’s coming from the Quebec Major Junior League. In the past year we have put a lot of emphasis on bringing in those good young players from the league and credit goes to Trevor Timmins and his staff for finding him,” Therrien related.