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Julien: 'Max Domi is better at center than wing'

Head coach Claude Julien is moving Max Domi back to center for Saturday night's matchup against the Rangers

by Matt Cudzinowski @CanadiensMTL /

BROSSARD - Max Domi spent the last three games playing on the wing, but that won't be the case again on Saturday night.

According to head coach Claude Julien, Domi will be back at center when the Canadiens play host to the New York Rangers, and he'll be flanked by Artturi Lehkonen on his left and Nick Suzuki on his right.

After watching Domi's recent performances against New Jersey, Columbus and Ottawa, Julien was convinced that the five-year NHL veteran was better suited up the middle.

"Over the last few games, we've noticed that Max isn't skating as well on the wing as he was at center. What's surprising is that he spent the majority of his career at wing. When he played center last year, he used his speed the right way. That's why we decided to put him back at center," explained Julien, who saw Domi collect one assist and register seven shots on goal playing left-wing. "I believe Max Domi is better at center than wing. We're putting him in a good position to have success."

Video: Claude Julien's press conference

Domi has been struggling offensively of late with just two helpers in November. He's also in the midst of a nine-game goal drought, and his last tally came all the way back on October 31 in Las Vegas.

While it remains to be seen if this switch will yield results production-wise, the 24-year-old Winnipeg native is adamant that the line has serious potential.

"Me and Lehky have played together a lot. He's an easy guy to play with. He gets pucks. He goes in there and wins battles and ties guys up so you can come with speed and get the puck and create offense that way. I love playing with Lehky. It's great and I'm excited about it," praised Domi, who also thoroughly enjoys playing alongside Suzuki. "Suzi's a great player. He's still a young kid, and he already has the confidence of a guy that's been in the League for many years. That's exciting. He's a great kid, extremely humble and works very hard in practice. He's got a heavy shot. Smart player. He's in the right spot at the right time. I think we're just getting started with some chemistry. As we keep finding it, we'll get better and better."

Video: Max Domi on returning to center

During his post-practice press conference on Friday, Julien indicated that Domi and Suzuki could alternate positions at times versus the Blueshirts when faceoff matchups or defensive responsibilities warrant a change.

That suits Domi just fine.

"I think we'll have the same sort of opportunity we did last year with a righty that can take draws on his side, and I'll take draws on my strong side," explained Domi. "Whoever's the first guy back can play low, and I think that creates pretty strong chemistry between two players in playing both wing and center."

Meanwhile, Charles Hudon was featured on the left side of a line with Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Joel Armia. For his part, Jordan Weal was featured on the right side of a trio with Nick Cousins and Nate Thompson.

Tweet from @CanadiensMTL: Here are the forward lines and defensive pairings from Friday���s practice at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard.#GoHabsGo

Reilly returns against the Rangers

After taking in the last six games from the press box, defenseman Mike Reilly is returning to the lineup against the Rangers.

With Reilly back in uniform, Brett Kulak will be a healthy scratch.

Julien's rationale behind the move is rather straightforward. He believes Reilly can jumpstart things offensively from the back end.

"He brings something different than Kulak does. On the offensive side, I think he's a more gifted player. On the defensive side, Kulak is a more efficient player. He kills plays quickly. This is what we have with those two guys, and that's why you see at times that one's in and one's out. It depends on teams we're playing," explained Julien. "When we lose a guy like [Jonathan] Drouin, who on the power play is a big loss, we may need Reillz to step in there at that position because he's good with the puck, and that's why you saw him on the power play. We're managing the situation of where we are right now with some injuries and some teams coming up."

Despite the fact that Julien has used Reilly sparingly thus far this season, the 26-year-old blueliner has always maintained a positive mindset.

"It hasn't been easy, but my whole approach is when I came out of the lineup after Philly [on November 7], I don't think it was because of poor play. If it was the opposite, it would be something more for me to think about and try not to get down," said Reilly, who has two assists in eight games during the 2019-20 campaign. "I think my approach is just to show up at practice every day and have a good attitude and be ready to go."

Video: Mike Reilly on returning to the lineup

The University of Minnesota product is confident he can be of assistance versus New York. 

"I know what I'm capable of, and I feel like I can help this team," insisted Reilly. "I have to go out there and not be afraid to make mistakes. You see a lot of our defensemen jumping into the play, and that's a main piece of my game. I feel like I can't be hesitant to do things like that."

Carey can shoot the puck, too

As Friday's on-ice session wrapped up at the Bell Sports Complex, Carey Price traded his goalie stick for a regular stick and began working on his slap shot.

Let's just say the seven-time All-Star impressed his teammates with his shooting ability.

Tweet from @CanadiensMTL: Carey, toujours impressionnant. 😶Impressing us every single day.#GoHabsGo | @CP0031

Price's blasts were consistently right on target, which didn't shock Reilly.

"Not surprised. Not surprised," responded Reilly with a smile, when asked about Price's performance. "Heavy [shot]. Heavy [shot]."

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