BROSSARD – In today’s notebook, David Desharnais switches roles, Max Pacioretty battles an injury, and McGill’s Jacob Gervais-Chouinard suits up at practice.
Changing places: When the Canadiens battle the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night at the Bell Centre, you can expect to see David Desharnais at a position other than center. He will begin the game playing left-wing on a line with Lars Eller and Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau, a move head coach Michel Therrien believes could be beneficial for all involved.
“If David’s able to adapt to different positions, it’s an advantage for him. It’s an advantage for a player to be able to play center, left-wing or right-wing. Firstly, it’s great for the team as a whole, and second, it’s exceptional for a player as an individual,” stressed Therrien, who put the trio on display at practice on Friday. “It can lengthen certain players’ careers, so there are a lot of positives. That’s how I see it. We’ve got short and long-term decisions to make, so we’ll give this combination a shot against Ottawa.”
While Desharnais hasn’t played wing in a while, the move certainly does peak his interest and he’s looking forward to seeing how things play out against Ottawa.
“The last time I played that position was in the playoffs against Boston [in 2011]. I was playing with Gomez and Gionta back then. It didn’t last long,” offered Desharnais with a laugh. “You don’t have the puck as often when you enter the zone. Centermen feed their wingers, while wingers shoot the puck. I’m going to try to shoot the puck more. Maybe, I’ll have more opportunities to do it, too. I just need to keep bringing what I’ve been bringing. It doesn’t change my game.”
Eller, who will return to the Canadiens’ lineup on Saturday night for the first time since sustaining an upper-body injury on December 5, believes the line has all the right ingredients to be effective.
“I think we can develop some chemistry. I think we’ve got different assets to make it a successful line,” confided Eller, who has seven goals and 11 points in 28 games this season. “If we all work hard and make this work, we’ll make it a good line. I have no doubt about that.”
Medical update: In his post-practice press conference, Michel Therrien indicated that Max Pacioretty was present at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Friday and that he is currently day-to-day with an upper-body injury. While the Canadiens’ bench boss didn’t offer up any further information on Pacioretty’s condition, it was obviously good to hear that the 26-year-old forward was on his feet after being the victim of a hard hit from Anaheim Ducks defenseman Clayton Stoner in Thursday night’s tilt at the Bell Centre.
Needless to say, Pacioretty’s teammates know full well that being deprived of his services for any period of time is tough, but they don’t plan on letting his potential absence dictate how they go about their business.
“Patch is very important to our lineup. He’s kind of our biggest offensive threat that other teams have to be aware of. Whether he’s out of the lineup or we get him back right away, it doesn’t change the way everyone needs to play. I think we’ve had that “next-man-up” mentality,” offered Brendan Gallagher, who, along with Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk, had formed a stellar first-line trio since first being paired together about 10 days ago. “We still need to do all the things we talk about doing. It doesn’t change anything. We still believe in ourselves to be a good team. But, he’s a very important part of our lineup. It would be nice to have him in there.”
Given Pacioretty’s extensive history of playing through pain and defying medical odds, it wouldn’t surprise Gallagher to see the New Canaan, CT native return to active duty in short order, even as soon as Saturday night.
“He’s tough. If he’s good to go, he’ll be in there. Everyone knows how badly he wants to be in there. He’s going to get back out there as quickly as possible. We’re not too worried about him,” mentioned Gallagher, who boasts eight goals in 2014-15, five back of Pacioretty, the team’s top gun in the goal-scoring department. “If he’s out, guys have to step up and play the role. Whoever is in that position just has to do what’s being asked of them. We just need to keep having that four-line mentality.”
Guest of honor: With Dustin Tokarski on his way to Hamilton for a two-game conditioning stint over the weekend, the Canadiens went looking for a second goaltender for Friday’s on-ice practice session. Enter Jacob Gervais-Chouinard, who is currently plying his trade for the McGill Redmen.
“I was in Sherbrooke on Thursday night at the Phoenix game when I got the call. After the game, I made the trip to Montreal and I slept at my apartment because I had to head to the rink early to pick up my equipment,” offered the former QMJHL goaltender, who played for the Val d’Or Foreurs, Rimouski Oceanic and the Phoenix before joining the Redmen in 2013-14. “I’d been off for seven days, so it was good to get back to work. I had a lot of fun out there. I got some good shots on goal. The guys are fast and they’re all in great shape.”
It was an experience the 22-year-old likely won’t soon forget, particularly because Michel Therrien’s troops made him feel right at home.
“They’re real pros at this level,” explained Chouinard, who played three games with the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2012-13 while on an amateur try-out with the Canadiens’ AHL affiliate. “All the guys came over to introduce themselves. I got a warm welcome.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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Canadiens sign third round pick Brett Lernout to a three-year contract