MONTREAL – On Wednesday morning, head coach Michel Therrien took the time to consider his personnel selection for the final games of the regular season.
With the injury bug biting the Habs in recent months and new faces brought about by the recent NHL trade deadline, Therrien has been kept busy trying to find the lineup which will give his side the best chances at consolidating a playoff position between now and April 12, when Montreal will play its final regular season game of 2013-14. Among his top priorities: managing the workload of Peter Budaj and Dustin Tokarski in anticipation of Carey Price’s eventual return, finding a good home for the scoring talents of Thomas Vanek, and spreading around the defensive responsibilities of the injured Josh Gorges.
Since arriving in Montreal from Long Island last Wednesday, Vanek has been skating alongside veterans Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta in five-on-five situations. Last Saturday, however, Therrien slotted the sharp-shooting Austrian winger to the right of Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais. That experiment continued on a limited scale on Tuesday, with Vanek skating alongside Pacioretty and Desharnais in power play drills before reuniting with Plekanec as his pivot at even strength.
“I have a lot of trust in Plekanec and I think that the line combination can work,” offered Therrien. “He’s a guy who’s good offensively and good defensively. He makes good decisions with the puck in all zones and this is what we ask of all of our players, no matter what line they play on.”
For his part, Vanek appreciates his coach’s attempts at finding the best linemates to compliment his talents.
“It’s going to take a while to adjust, but again the more you can practice and talk to the guys and your linemates. Working on the power play is going to help out everyone I think, so today is a good day,” said the Vienna native, whose father played professional hockey in Czechoslovakia before moving west and coaching the Graz 99ers of the Austrian Hockey League.
On the receiving ends of Vanek’s quick release at practice Tuesday was Carey Price, who participated in a full workout in anticipation of a return from a lower-body injury suffered at the Olympics.
“Carey is making progress. He had a good day today, and we’ll see at the end of the week where he's at,” offered Therrien, who will reveal the identity of his starting goaltender against the Bruins on Wednesday morning.
It definitely will not be Price, so either Peter Budaj or Dustin Tokarski, both of whom skated on Tuesday, will be defending the Montreal net against the visiting team.
As for Therrien’s third concern, the Canadiens bench boss plans on addressing the issue with a mix of old and new.
“Josh Gorges will be out for about a month, but we have good depth on the back end with Mike Weaver and Francis Bouillon, who will be in the lineup against Boston,” said Therrien.
While Weaver will be making only his third appearance as a member of the Canadiens, Bouillon is already in his 11th season as a Hab. Both defensemen are not afraid of doing the dirty work, and will do much to make up for the loss of the hard hitting, shot-blocker to a fractured hand.
“Francis has known since Saturday morning that he will be in against the Bruins, so it was not a last-minute call,” added Therrien. Jack Han is a writer for canadiens.com.SEE ALSOJosh Gorges underwent hand surgery
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