BROSSARD -- The usual suspects were all at practice on Monday, albeit with a few key differences.
SHUFFLING THE DECK
Notable among the changes was a new line comprised of Max Pacioretty, Torrey Mitchell and Andrew Shaw.
Call it sharpshooting, meets speed, meets grit.
"I think what [Max] has around him right now is a guy who can move the puck, and a guy who can get into those dirty areas to win battles and get pucks back," explained Shaw, who has dished out the second-most hits of any Hab this season, behind Alexei Emelin. "We're going to have some great chemistry. We felt good out there today, and we're going to carry that into tomorrow's game."Video: Shaw on playing with Pacioretty
Pacioretty and Shaw for their part have been linemates over the last six games, so the Canadian winger knows what to expect from his American counterpart.
"I think we've had some really good games together. We're supporting each other all over the ice, getting pucks in, and then creating the second chances," continued Shaw. "He's got that great shot and that wide speed, so we've got to use those to our advantage as well."
For Pacioretty, meanwhile, adding Mitchell to the mix will also come with some adjustments to make.
"Torrey normally gets faced with a lot of defensive assignments, so it's going to be a new role [for me], but I think I've been playing towards that lately. It's about doing whatever I can to help the team win," underlined the Canadiens captain, who has four goals and a plus-6 differential through 19 games this season. "I'm excited to play with Torrey -- he's one of the guys I haven't played with yet -- he's got great energy, he's a great skater, and we'll see what we can put together tomorrow."Video: Pacioretty on his new line
Indeed, the 31-year-old Montrealer has thrived in a shutdown role this season, playing an average of 2:12 per night on the penalty kill.
"Coach likes to put [Torrey] out in the defensive zone," added Shaw. "He's great at faceoffs, and at getting the puck out of his own end, so it should be a good line."
The other personnel change at practice involved a line made up of Tomas Plekanec centering Brendan Gallagher and Phillip Danault.
"They're two guys who are solid defensively," explained Danault, who returned to the wing on Saturday following a stint at center, and remained there at practice on Monday. "We're a defense-first team, and Gally, Pleky, and I will need to continue using our speed to our advantage. We're three fast guys who had good chemistry today, and at the end of last game. We'll build off of that for tomorrow."Video: Danault on playing with Plekanec and Gallagher
With the change comes an opportunity to spark two proven scorers, a role the 23-year-old relishes.
"My job has always been to create scoring chances, and it's something I pride myself on. I like playing with intensity, and they're two intense guys," described Danault, who already has a career-best five goals and four assists this season. "But, they're two hard workers in their own right, so I'm not concerned about their offensive output."
News of 26-year-old center Craig Cunningham collapsing on the ice just before the start of a game between his Tucson Roadrunners and the Manitoba Moose in the AHL on Saturday hit close to home in the Canadiens dressing room.
Having played alongside Cunningham with the Vancouver Giants in the WHL, Gallagher has been keeping close tabs on his former Junior teammate's status.
"I'm pretty close to him, so I've been getting updates," shared the 24-year-old winger. "He's in a situation now where he's better than he was 30 hours ago, but it's still not great. He's being monitored by doctors and there's optimism that he's going to come out of it okay."Video: Gallagher on Craig Cunningham
As someone the tenacious winger has modeled his own game after, there's no doubt in Gallagher's mind that Cunningham has the fight in him to overcome his latest challenge.
"Craig was never the strongest, or biggest, or quickest guy, but he always competed harder than anyone on the ice. He battled as hard as anyone, and that's what he's got to do now," prescribed the 5-foot-9 Habs assistant captain. "I played with him for four years I think. He was a guy that I learned from -- another small guy. He was my captain for a little bit, and no one could ever say a bad thing about him. He's a guy who showed up every day, did his job, got along with everyone, and always won. Hopefully he wins this battle as well."
Forward lines and defensive pairings at practice: