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Changing on the fly

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

With a lineup depleted by injuries, coach Michel Therrien shuffled his deck in an attempt to find the right combination.

At Tuesday morning’s practice at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard, recent call up Sven Andrighetto found himself on the Canadiens’ newly constructed top line alongside Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk.

The 22-year-old, who has three goals in seven games with the Canadiens this season, was understandably excited about the opportunity.

“I was really excited, and I’m still excited. To play alongside Pacioretty, one of the best players in the league is huge for me,” exclaimed Andrighetto, who was called up to the Canadiens from the St. John’s IceCaps on November 20, 2015. “When I played with Chucky and Eller it was also a huge opportunity for me. Personally it doesn’t change a lot for my game. I have to be consistent in what I do, bring my speed to the line and still focus on the little details. Just keep it simple and it will all work out well.”

Andrighetto has worked hard in his short time in Montreal to take full advantage of every opportunity presented to him as a result of injuries to regular forwards Brendan Gallagher, Devante Smith-Pelly and Torrey Mitchell.

In that time the Swiss sniper has left quite the impression on his captain and future line-mate.

“You can tell from practice that he is able to make plays with the puck, but more importantly he is so fast that he can also keep it simple and get in on the fore-check. So I think that creativity together with that speed gives him the ability to make those kinds of plays and that’s important especially when playing against the harder matchups,” articulated Pacioretty, who has seen his fair share of line-mates in his eight years with the Canadiens organization. “He’s also got the speed to be able to chip the puck in and go retrieve it himself. When you have that kind of speed and skill, it is a great combination.”

As the Canadiens found themselves down a goal in the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night, coach Therrien combined Galchenyuk with Pacioretty and Andrighetto in an attempt to spark the Habs’ offense.

“We had a couple shifts in the third period against Carolina. I am happy to say that I felt comfortable with everyone that I’ve played with so far this year. Obviously things are tough and we’ve had some injuries so this will be a great test and I think the guys are ready,” concluded Pacioretty.

When the Canadiens first announced that Galchenyuk would shift to center at this year’s annual charity golf tournament in Laval, Habs fans were buzzing about the possibility of seeing the former third-overall draft pick paired with the team’s most lethal sniper; Pacioretty.

The 21-year-old will have that very chance Wednesday night in Montreal, when the Habs take on the Bruins at the Bell Centre.

“I just have to focus on being successful. As a center, I don’t think I should come to the rink focusing on who I am going to play with. I just have to come in with the mentality that I am going to help my line-mates. That’s my mindset right now,” clarified Galchenyuk, who has played alongside an ever changing cast of wingers this season. “I’m definitely very excited to play with Patch, he’s a great player to play with. I think both of those guys are really quick, so it will be my job to create that space for them and make sure that I find a way to give them the puck when they are at top speed.”

Coach Therrien, the overseer of Galchenyuk’s transition to center, indicated that timing played an important role in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin native’s deployment this season.

“Timing is always important. We could not make that same switch at the beginning of the season. It will change a lot for him,” reinforced Therrien, who will watch the new line closely to help him gauge the 21-year-old’s progression. “He will play against different players, against the best defenders.”

“We want to experiment. Is it going to stay like that? Impossible to say, it will depend on the results,” continued Therrien, who ignited Galchenyuk’s recent four game goal scoring streak when he added Andrighetto to his wing. “He plays center with much more confidence than he did at the beginning of the season, and this is quite normal. We just want to make sure that he continues to progress.”

Jared Ostroff is a writer for

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