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Dynamic three

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

BROSSARD – There’s no denying just how good the line of Brandon Prust, Lars Eller and Jiri Sekac has been as of late.

Since coming together in the latter stages of the Canadiens-Sabres tilt back on November 5th in Buffalo, the trio has been seemingly unstoppable, giving opposing defenders fits and chipping in every time they hit the ice. Over the last three games, Eller, Prust and Sekac have combined for five goals and 11 points, and have played an integral part in the team’s current four-game winning streak.

“As a line, I think we’re just skating. We’re getting on pucks. We're making smart decisions with the puck. We’re winning battles. We’re sticking to our strengths. We’re protecting the puck, and we’re going to the net. We’re kind of doing everything. We’ve been playing well in the defensive zone, too, getting the pucks out when we can. Everything is kind of clicking right now,” offered Prust, who has registered three assists through 17 games this season, while amassing 23 penalty minutes along the way.

“When we’re out there, we’re getting chances. Some games you feel like you should score four or five out there. It’s good,” added Prust, who has also dished out 21 hits on the year, and dropped the gloves a team-leading three times. “We’ve just got to keep doing the things that make us successful.”

Right now, it doesn’t seem like that will present a problem. Head coach Michel Therrien insists that the line boasts all of the ingredients necessary to be a hit in the long run.

“You’ve got speed with a guy like Sekac. You’ve got determination with a guy like Prust, and you’ve got the work ethic of Eller,” mentioned Therrien. “When you put all of that together, you see the results.”

In Eller’s case, the results have been quite dramatic. After struggling out of the gate with just two goals in his first 14 games, the Dane has clearly found his scoring touch alongside his new partners, notching three goals in his last three outings. Interestingly enough, all of those markers have turned out to be all-important game-winners.

“I’ve noticed while playing with him that he’s winning puck battles and getting to pucks. He’s just skating a lot faster. It’s noticeable. He’s playing well. He’s playing with confidence,” explained Prust, who is pleased to see Eller get back on track. “We kind of all go through our ups and downs throughout the year. Confidence is huge. The mental part of the game is important. If you’re not feeling it, you can kind of go into a lull. If you’re out there and you’re feeling good, you just have that much more confidence. It’s huge.”

With five points and a plus-4 differential over the last three games, Eller is certainly not lacking in the self-reliance department heading into the Canadiens’ fourth set of back-to-back games over the weekend.

“Right now, Lars is feeling confident. He has confidence in his teammates. That’s important,” offered Therrien, before going on to explain how confidence and individual success go hand-in-hand. “The mental side plays a big part in the success of any one guy. A player needs to have confidence in himself, but there are a bunch of little things to do beforehand. You have to have a good attitude, train hard and make sacrifices. That’s where confidence comes from. When that’s not the case, you’re short on confidence and the results aren’t there. And, that doesn’t just apply to Lars Eller. It goes for all of the players on the team.”

Like Eller, Sekac probably wrestled with his confidence level at some point in time this season, too, particularly when he was a healthy scratch for seven straight games prior to being reinserted in the lineup in Buffalo. Fortunately, the 22-year-old Czech forward has been nothing short of brilliant since his return, recording two goals and four points in his last three appearances with the CH.

“He’s a skilled player. He’s skating fast. He’s strong out there. He’s kind of backing off the D with his speed. We’re kind of getting some more room out there,” mentioned Prust. “Teams are going to get familiar with him, so they’re a little timid and they’re giving him a little bit more space.”

As for the line’s elder statesman, the Canadiens’ bench boss is adamant Prust is playing with the type of passion that can keep any group of players rolling.

“I see a guy who’s healthy and who’s in shape. He’s got a ton of energy. He’s playing with enthusiasm,” concluded Therrien. “He’s also a guy who commands respect on any line he plays with.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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