MONTREAL - Practicing at the Bell Centre for the Canadiens' first on-ice session since returning from their three-game road trip, the change of venue wasn't the only difference at practice for Claude Julien's troops on Monday.
With Tomas Tatar still dealing with an upper-body injury, the veteran bench boss re-jigged his lines in the hopes that refreshed combinations would spark a team that only produced one goal in two games in the State of Florida on March 5 and 7.
"We're making changes to try to find something. It doesn't mean that they're good changes or that it's the answer," explained Julien, whose squad skated at their home rink downtown because of the annual team photo. "[Joel] Armia has been having some trouble lately. [Nick] Suzuki has hit a wall, which is normal given that he's played a lot of hockey the past year. We have to try making some changes."
Video: Press conference: Claude Julien
Tatar exited Tuesday's game in Brooklyn and didn't play against Tampa or Florida later in the week. And as the team's leading scorer with a career-high 61 points (22G, 39A), it's clear the Slovakian winger is leaving some sizable shoes to fill in his absence.
"He's a big part of our team. He helps us in so many areas. Getting the chance to play with him the last couple of years, you understand how smart he is and the difference he can make," praised Gallagher of Tatar, who had six points (1G, 5A) in the three games leading up to Tuesday's contest against the Islanders. "Going forward, he's a guy we need. He's working to get healthy but for us right now, it's about seeing what we can do without him. It's an opportunity for guys to step up."
Video: Brendan Gallagher on skating with Domi
In Tatar's absence, Julien decided to completely reconfigure his line combinations up front, which meant that Gallagher skated on a line centered by Max Domi with Charles Hudon on the left.
Gallagher was excited to be playing alongside the Habs' leading scorer from last season, and hopes his talent for driving the play will lead to some success.
"He's a good player. He's one of those players who you see how fast he is, and you want to try and use that as best you can. I'll create some open space for him and try to get him the puck; he's usually going to be pretty good at zone entries and pushing the D-man back," described Gallagher of Domi, who's third in team scoring in 2019-20 with 44 points (17G, 27A). "Whenever you play with players with certain skill sets, just try to take advantage of them the best you can and help him out whenever you can. If you open up ice for him, he's going to make you look good."
Phillip Danault, meanwhile, centered a line between Paul Byron and Armia. Danault said he was a little caught off-guard by the new trios, but recognized why his coach might want to try shaking things up.
"I've been playing with the same two wingers for two years, so I was surprised," admitted Danault, who's second on the Habs with 47 points (13G, 34A). "But we understand the situation; we want to score more goals and play better as a team.
"Changing lines isn't a bad thing. I would say it could create a spark. It's not bad for the dynamics."
Video: Phillip Danault on playing without Tatar
Danault's new left winger was also not concerned about skating with a different centerman, noting that they'd built up a rapport when they played with each other in the past.
"It's very easy to play with him. He plays hard. He's very smart and he's always on the puck," shared Byron. "I don't need to change my game. I've already played some games with him; there's already some chemistry."
Video: Paul Byron on the team's compete level
Jonathan Drouin didn't travel with his teammates to the Empire and Sunshine States last week, but was on the ice with them for practice on Monday. He donned a maroon jersey and alternated on the fourth line with Lukas Vejdemo, Jake Evans, and Dale Weise for line rushes. The Sainte Agathe native did not meet with the media following the skate, and Julien told reporters he'd likely have more information on Drouin's progress on Tuesday after he gets a chance to touch base with the club's medical staff.
The Canadiens face the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre. For tickets to the game, click here.