BROSSARD - The Stanley Cup champs will be at the Bell Centre on Saturday night.
In preparation for the matchup against the St. Louis Blues, Claude Julien decided to make some changes to his lineup.
First off, Brett Kulak draws back in. The 25-year-old defenseman will be on the left-hand side of a pairing with Jeff Petry, reuniting two rearguards who spent much of the 2018-19 season patrolling the blue line together.
For the head coach, it was important to give another shot to the Calgary Flames' fourth-round pick (105th overall) in 2012.
"We all know Kulak can play good hockey. He had some difficulty in the first two games and even in training camp. We have to give the player a chance to come back and show what he can do," explained Julien during his pregame press conference at the Bell Sports Complex. "He's a guy who can skate well and close the play well. We're giving him a chance to start with Petry, but we'll see."
For his part, Kulak wants to take advantage of the opportunity he's being given to return to action on Saturday at the Bell Centre. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound defenseman enjoyed the best season of his career with the Habs last year, collecting six goals for 17 points in 56 games.
With an imposing team taking the ice on the other side, Kulak and Petry will try to use their speed to break into the offensive zone.
"I don't know if it's just some chemistry we have. We both like to skate, use our feet, be available for each other, and move the puck amongst each other," outlined Kulak. "I know in the ozone, he creates a lot because he's always in motion; he gets to open spots to make plays. So I don't know if it was a combination of a few things, but yeah, we had some success last year and hopefully we can keep building off it and get the win."
Video: Brett Kulak on being paired with Jeff Petry
The Canadiens' third pairing now becomes Christian Folin and Ben Chiarot, and for Julien, it was important to have a tough duo to deploy against the Blues.
The average height on the Saint Louis roster is 6-foot-1 while the average weight is 203.9 pounds, compared to Montreal's 6-foot and 197 pounds.
Hence the Chiarot-Folin experiment.
"In the case of Folin and Chiarot, they're two big players. We know we're playing a big team tonight," mentioned the coach. "We wanted a bit more of a physical presence."
Up front, right wingers Nick Suzuki and Jordan Weal traded places. That means that Weal will skate on the second line alongside Max Domi and Artturi Lehkonen, while Suzuki joins a fourth line also made up of Nate Thompson and Paul Byron.
For his part, Suzuki sees it as another chance to show what he's made of, especially against the 2019 Stanley Cup champions.
"I'm very motivated for tonight's game. I want to prove that I can play against one of the best teams in the League," affirmed the Vegas Golden Knights' first-round pick (13th overall) in 2017. "They're the Stanley Cup champions. There's going to be a lot of competition on the ice tonight. It should be a good game."
Video: Nick Suzuki on facing the Blues
The game between the Blues and the Canadiens gets underway at 7:00 p.m. at the Bell Centre.