BROSSARD – Head coach Michel Therrien is looking for answers, and with a tweak to his lineup against the Buffalo Sabres, he's hoping to find them.
Such is the luxury of coaching a Canadiens squad that has rattled off five consecutive victories and sits second in the Eastern Conference through 28 games, two points back of the Pittsburgh Penguins for top spot.
Come puck drop, Colby Armstrong will play with Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller while Gabriel Dumont will move to center, flanked by Ryan White and Travis Moen. It’s a move Therrien believes Armstrong has earned over the last eight games, and one that will afford Dumont the opportunity to showcase his abilities at a position he’s had experience with at the AHL level.
“There are a few reasons for [those changes],” confirmed Therrien. “First of all, Colby's played really well the last two weeks. He's had a lot of chances and done a good job creating scoring chances too. He deserves to be there. In the meantime, there are answers that we need to know regarding our young players, and a guy like Dumont, we want to see how he's going to react as a centerman. He played as a centerman in the minors. I want to see how he's going to react at the NHL level. Lately he's been playing on the wing, but I need some answers.”
Armstrong, who tallied his first goal of the season in last Saturday night’s 2-1 win over the New Jersey Devils, admitted that although his offensive production has been lacking, he’s been content with his effort in other aspects of his game.
“I’ve always felt better than the numbers for sure,” admitted the Lloydminster, SK native. “I think that Moen, White and myself have always played a solid game. We spend a lot of time in the opposing team’s zone and we create good scoring chances. All we’ve been missing is a little finish.”
The nine-year NHL veteran is looking to find that finish as early as Tuesday night together with a pair of swift-skating forwards. The 6-foot-2 winger believes he can add a measure of physicality to the trio that can create more space, and ultimately more scoring chances against a Sabres squad that has only one win in their last seven games and is 14th in the East.
“Chucky [Galchenyuk] is a guy who’s filled with talent and has great speed,” said Armstrong. “It’s the same thing for Lars [Eller]. He’s been playing like a beast lately. He’s strong, fast and has great offensive capabilities. I’ll have to adapt, go deep in the other team’s end, collect loose pucks and help feed them. Simple, but tough hockey.”
While Armstrong and Dumont get set to take on new roles with new linemates, rookie defenseman Jarred Tinordi will likely be feeling a similar sense of anxiety in the hours leading up to game time as he prepares to play his first career NHL game at the Bell Centre.
“I’m really excited. We played here twice already with the Bulldogs,” said the 21-year-old, who debuted for the Habs over the weekend. “The crowd was already really enthusiastic, especially because our first game was during the lockout. I’m excited to see it tonight. I feel a little more comfortable, but it’s still only been one game. I’m going to prepare myself like it was my first game. It’s true that the nerves might still be there and that I’ll be excited to play in front of the Montreal fans.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
Words from the room
The Montreal Canadiens mourn the loss of Frank Selke Jr.