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Julien: Line changes 'going to happen all year'

Joel Armia was back at practice on Wednesday, while Jonathan Drouin and Max Domi were reunited

by Matt Cudzinowski @CanadiensMTL /

BROSSARD - There's a chance the Canadiens could have Joel Armia back in the lineup for Thursday night's contest against the San Jose Sharks.

The 26-year-old forward missed the last two games with a lower-body injury, but returned to practice on Wednesday and skated with the rest of the group.

Following the on-ice session, Armia indicated that the injury occurred during last week's game versus the Minnesota Wild at the Bell Centre.

"I feel a lot better," said Armia, who boasts four goals and five points in seven games so far this season. "If I feel like this [on Thursday morning], and they let me play, I'm ready to go."

Video: Joel Armia on his health status

Nevertheless, head coach Claude Julien wasn't prepared to confirm that Armia would be available to battle the Sharks.

"It's day-to-day," said Julien, regarding the Finn's health status. "It's his first time on the ice with us, so we'll see how he feels and we'll make a decision based on that."

Armia was featured on a line with Jonathan Drouin and Max Domi, who were reunited on the same trio.

And it's safe to say that Drouin is pleased to be partnering with his good buddy again.

"We're pretty smart players. We think the same way when we're on the ice. We talked during practice about the plays we could make. We see there's some chemistry, and we're happy to play together," insisted Drouin, before expanding upon what really makes the pair tick - and where improvements need to be made, too. "We don't have to think too much and watch video. I know where he'll be. Last season, we created a lot of chances and we capitalized on them. But, we have to limit the scoring chances against and make sure to create things on offense. We have to involve everyone and not just play us two."

Video: Jonathan Drouin on being reunited with Max Domi

Will the duo remain intact going forward, though? Maybe. Maybe not.

Julien was adamant that he's prepared to make changes up and down his lineup at any point in time.

"We've also got other options. We've been mulling over different line combinations. I don't think we've been outplayed to the point where you say, 'This is definitely a disaster and we need to blow things up.' We're trying things, and I could easily go back to old lines. I'm telling you guys right now, get used to it," said Julien. "It's going to happen all year, because we have a lot of depth in our lineup, and we have a lot of different combinations - and we're fortunate enough that we're capable of using it. That's what we're doing right now."

Case and point is the fact that only the line of Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher has stayed the same, while there have been a variety of switches everywhere else.

"There's one line that has stuck together, and that's the Danault line. When those guys have a good start, they create scoring chances and give us momentum right away. They have good chemistry, so it's tough to break them up. We don't necessarily want to separate them either because they do good work," praised Julien. "But, we think we can get more out of certain lines by making changes. That's about instinct. During coaching discussions, we'll say what we believe a player can bring to a line and how they can help a line improve. When it doesn't work, we start over again."

Video: Claude Julien's post-practice press conference

Quick hits

Nick Suzuki was rotating with Armia on right wing on Wednesday.

If Armia is unable to play against San Jose, the 20-year-old London, ON native could potentially play with Drouin and Domi.

Julien is confident Suzuki will steadily grow into a player capable of delivering the goods alongside top offensive weapons just like them.

The fact that he's been featured in the lower-half of the lineup early in the year isn't cause for concern at all.

"He's having success right now because he's maybe playing against third and fourth lines instead of first and second lines. It's about player development. Whether it's next year or the year after that, I can say that he'll play on one of our big lines. Right now, we're giving him the chance to gain some confidence and some experience," said Julien. "When you see a player his age on the power play, it means that we have a lot of confidence in him. We're giving him time to walk before asking him to run."

For his part, Tatar left practice early after suffering a lower-body injury.

Julien provided a brief update on his condition.

"He took a puck to the foot," said Julien. "We'll hopefully have good news sooner than later. Right now, I have nothing more than that."

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