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Juggling act

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
BROSSARD – “It’s time for some experiments,” Jacques Martin expressed to the media before boarding the team bus set to shuttle the Canadiens to the airport for their flight to Buffalo.

Martin’s sentiment appeared to be the theme of the Habs’ Thursday morning practice in Brossard, a practice that saw both the team’s offensive lines and defensive pairings undergo a shuffle.

“We’re looking for solutions right now that will help us better our situation. Sometimes when you change player combinations, you change routine and get people a little outside of their comfort zone and that helps them perform better,” continued Martin, whose most notable experiments include the addition of Andrei Kostitsyn to the Gomez/Gionta line, the young Lars Eller to the Plekanec/Cammalleri line, and the new defensive pairings of Subban/Gill and Gorges/Markov.

Another change, one designed to bring some jump to the Canadiens underachieving power-play, will involve the utilization of Michael Cammalleri on the point as opposed his usual spot on the right-wing.

 “I’ve played that role in the past, a few years back now. It’s a little strange to find myself there again but it’s a good thing to make some changes from time to time,” noted Cammalleri of his shift in responsibilities on the man-advantage. “I think it’s something we need to do right now and I’m looking forward to seeing what I can accomplish from the point.”

One move that fans and coaching staff alike are guaranteed to be paying close attention to Friday night in Buffalo is the introduction of Lars Eller to one of the Canadiens top-two lines. The young Dane found his greatest success in the preseason playing along side Plekanec and Cammalleri, notching three points in a single game versus the Florida Panthers.

“Obviously the regular season is going to be completely different from the preseason, but I have had the opportunity to play with them a bit before and things seemed to go well so we’ll hope for the best and try and develop some chemistry out there,” explained Eller, who also expressed his desire to make the most of the opportunity. “I don’t want to look at this as pressure, I want to look at it as more of a challenge. I was hoping to get some time on the top two lines all season and now that I’m here it’s my job to prove that I can really make things happen and contribute. I don’t want this to only be for one game.”

On the defensive side of things, one of the most surprising changes was the spilt of the very consistent pairing of Josh Gorges and Hal Gill, who found great success together in last year’s playoffs, effectively shutting down some of the league’s top talent.

“Marky is a brilliant puck-mover. He’s always a step ahead and he’s constantly seeing things that nobody else on the ice does,” said Gorges of his new partner. “I have no idea if this is going to stick or if it’s something that the coach just wanted to take a look at for the sake of practice. Sometimes change is a good thing, and other times, it’s a good thing to battle through the tough times – if they do decide to keep Hal and I together it’s our job to play better as a duo.”

A few stalls down, Hal Gill had a decidedly different take on the matter, “If Josh doesn’t want to play with me anymore, that’s just something I’ll have to live with,” joked the towering defenseman. “I’m a soldier, I just do what I’m told.”

Justin Fragapane is a writer for

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