React, but don’t over-react.
That was coach Claude Julien’s message to his players at practice Friday in Brossard as they prepared to face the New York Rangers Saturday at the Bell Centre (7 p.m., CITY, SNE, TVA Sports TSN 690 Radio) looking to end a three game winless streak (0-1-2).
Julien reacted by juggling his lines at practice, moving Max Domi back to centre and Nick Suzuki to the wing. The coach will also get defenceman Mike Reilly back in the lineup Saturday night after he was a healthy scratch for the last six games. Reilly will take Brett Kulak’s spot on the third pairing with rookie Cale Fleury.
Domi, who has gone nine games without a goal and has only one in the last 17, played the last three games at left wing with Suzuki at centre and Joel Armia on the right side. At practice Friday, Domi was at centre with Artturi Lehkonen on the left wing and Suzuki on the right.
Julien said it became obvious Domi skates better when he’s playing centre and he’s able to exploit his speed more in the middle, adding that rookie Suzuki adapts well to playing on the wing.
The coach noted that Domi and Suzuki can both handle the centre’s responsibilities in the defensive zone and switch up when necessary. The fact Domi shoots left and Suzuki shoots right means they can also also switch up in the faceoff circle, taking draws on their strong side. Domi has won only 44.8 per cent of his faceoffs this season, while Suzuki has won 47.8 per cent.
Julien also moved Charles Hudon — who has been called up again from the AHL’s Laval Rocket — up to the third line with Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Armia, while the fourth line had Nate Thompson between Nick Cousins and Jordan Weal.
The Canadiens have only scored three goals in their last two games and Julien said it wasn’t a case of players being promoted or demoted, more him looking for offensive balance on the four lines and — hopefully — more goals.
Reilly gets spot on power play
Julien had Reilly on the second power-play unit at practice Friday, hoping the defenceman can provide a boost there from the point. Heading into Friday’s games, the Canadiens ranked 12th in the NHL on the power play with a 20.9 per cent success rate.
“At the end of the day, he brings something different than Kulak does,” Julien said about Reilly. “On the offensive side, I think he’s a more gifted player. On the defensive side, Kulak is a more efficient player … he kills plays quickly, he does that. So this is what we have with those two guys and that’s why you see at times one’s in, one’s out. It depends on teams we’re playing. Depending on certain teams that are really aggressive, physical, this is where Kuly will outweigh Reils. Right now, we lose a guy like Jonathan Drouin, who on the power play is a big loss. We may need Reils to step in there and see what he can do in that position because he is good with the puck and that’s why you saw him today on the power play.”
Reilly hasn’t played since Nov. 7 in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Flyers in Philadelphia, logging 12:54 of ice time with four shots, two hits and an even in plus/minus. In eight games this season, Reilly has 0-2-2 totals and is plus-1.
“It hasn’t been easy, but I think my whole approach to it is I think when I came out of the lineup after Philly I don’t think it was because of poor play or anything like that,” Reilly said after practice Friday. “So I think if it was the opposite, I think it’d be a little bit more something for me to think about and try not to get down. But I think my approach is just try to show up to practice every day and have a good attitude and be ready to go.”
Drouin watches practice
Drouin, who had surgery on his left wrist on Monday and is expected to be sidelined for at least eight weeks, was at the Bell Sports Complex on Friday to watch practice while sporting a large cast.
Drouin had 7-8-15 totals in 19 games before injuring his wrist in a 5-2 win over the Capitals in Washington on Nov. 15.
Father/son weekend for Thompson
Thompson enjoyed a special father/son day Friday when he brought 4-year-old Teague to practice and then took him on the ice at the end.
Teague lives with his mother in Minnesota and was in the stands watching when the Canadiens lost 4-3 to the Wild in Minnesota on Oct. 20. Teague, who is in Montreal for the weekend, will be able to watch his dad in action again Saturday night at the Bell Centre.
“It’s awesome, especially when he came out on the ice,” Thompson said while untying his son’s skates after practice. “He also came in the locker room and hung out with the boys. It’s kind of what it’s all about and he loves it.
“We’re just trying to make the most of the time here and have him just enjoy himself — and me, too,” Thompson added.
Folin a healthy scratch again
Defenceman Christian Folin will be a healthy scratch for the 14th straight game Saturday night and hasn’t played since Oct. 19.
Reilly and Folin were teammates with the Wild before being reunited with the Canadiens.
“I definitely feel for him,” Reilly said about Folin. “Obviously, we knew each other before both of us came to Montreal. I think he’s just trying to stay positive. I don’t know really what’s said to him and what’s not, but he’s just trying to stay positive. I feel bad for him. He’s a great guy.”
Costly mistakes in OT
Julien was upset with Suzuki and Tomas Tatar after the Ottawa Senators’ Brady Tkachuk scored an overtime breakaway goal for a 2-1 win over the Canadiens Wednesday night at the Bell Centre.
“Laziness on the part of our forwards in overtime ends up costing us another point,” the coach said in his post-game news conference.
On Friday, Julien was asked if he had expressed his unhappiness to Suzuki and Tatar the same way and, if so, how they responded to it.
“I don’t know why that matters,” Julien said. “Honestly, what I do with my players is internally personal. It’s not for me to go out there and tell you guys: ‘Hey, I bashed these players.’ ‘Hey guys, I really gave it to those guys.’ Or I didn’t … I told them this. I think I deal with my players the same way one way or another. And at the end of the day, I think it’s pretty obvious they also know when they look at the video, they’re pretty smart people and they see the same mistakes that I saw. And that’s what happened At the end of the day, if we don’t repeat that mistake we’ve made some progress. That’s how I approach it with players.
“There’s mistakes that are being made and it was a frustrating overtime goal that we gave up because we calculated four mistakes,” the coach added. “I’m not going to get into it, four mistakes in a matter of whatever, 10 seconds, and one goal. So when you look at that it’s frustrating. But at the end of the day, you turn the page because we need to get ready for the Rangers. What I’m telling the guys is if we don’t make that mistake again, OK, we’ve gained something. So let’s learn from it and that’s how you move forward with your group.”
Here’s how the Canadiens’ forward lines and defence pairings looked at practice Friday:
Tatar – Danault – Gallagher
Lehkonen – Domi – Suzuki
Hudon – Kotkaniemi – Armia
Cousins - Thompson – Weal
Chiarot – Weber
Mete – Petry
Reilly – Fleury
Kulak – Folin
Here’s how the Canadiens’ two power-play units looked at practice:
The Canadiens have a morning skate scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard before facing the New York Rangers Saturday night at the Bell Centre (7 p.m., CITY, SNE, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio).
Next week, the Canadiens have three home games with the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre on Tuesday (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio), followed by the New Jersey Devils on Thursday (7:30 p.m., SN, RDS, TSN 690 Radio) and the Philadelphia Flyers for a rare Saturday afternoon game (3 p.m., SN, RDS, TSN 690 Radio).
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019