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FLA@MTL: Penultimate preparations

While Habs eye first preseason win, some players might be looking at a final shot to crack the roster

by Steven Nechay @CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com

BROSSARD -- As the Canadiens' preseason schedule winds down to its final two games, so too do the chances for Habs hopefuls looking to make their mark on the big club.

But they'll get a fair shake on Friday, as head coach Claude Julien is expected to rest a number of his regulars, including Max Pacioretty, Jonathan Drouin, Brendan Gallagher, Shea Weber, and Carey Price.

"It's true that we'll probably have some guys in the lineup who we'll see for the last time tonight," revealed the Habs bench boss following a brief morning skate at the Bell Sports Complex. "It's up to them stand out, because by tomorrow night [against Ottawa] we hope to go with a group that will be pretty close to the one we'll use on opening night."

PROJECTED LINES vs FLORIDA

A notable change to Friday's lineup will have forward Byron Froese playing at center rather than on the wing, in what will be the Winkler, MB native's sixth preseason game out of seven so far.

"He's a guy who can play center, and the season is long," explained Julien. "We want to evaluate our players the right way. Tonight he could give himself a chance to stick with the team, or -- worst case -- he could give us a good idea what to expect from him should we ever need to call him up from Laval."

  

NICE TO METE YOU

After spending the bulk of the preseason so far patrolling the blue line alongside All-Star defenseman Shea Weber, Victor Mete could see things shaken up on the back end Friday as he's expected to be paired with Jordie Benn against the Panthers.

According to fellow rearguard Karl Alzner, the on-ice experiment could be a positive sign for the 19-year-old in the final days of camp.

"It's been great for him obviously to be able to play with Weber, and to learn from him, but I think it will be nice for everybody else to be able to see what he can do when they put a little bit more responsibility on his shoulders," suggested Alzner, who for his part will be once again paired with Jeff Petry after the two teamed up for a power play goal in their last outing. "I think he'll be able to handle it, because he looks pretty darn good out there. I think it's also something that goes to show they're curious to see who he could slot in with. Defensive pairings change all the time, just like forward lines, so it will be nice to see if he can get some chemistry going with a couple of guys, and then slot in anywhere the coaches want him to be."

Video: Karl Alzner on preseason vs regular season

Alzner might be onto something, as Julien hinted he could indeed be testing Mete for a potential opening night roster spot.

"I'm a coach who will always prefer a tough decision to an easy one. An easy one means you don't have choices; a tough one means you have choices," suggested the 57-year-old. "It's easy to say, 'Jeez, I wish I didn't have to make these tough decisions,' but over the course of a career, they're the ones you prefer. I'd obviously be lying if I said [Mete and Charles Hudon] have done nothing to give themselves a chance to stay here. They're both still here with two games left, and when the time comes on Sunday to make those tough decisions, they'll both be in the mix."

  

HEALTHY RETURNS

Day-to-day earlier in the week with a lower body injury, goaltender Charlie Lindgren will be back for the Habs on Friday when he gets the start against Florida.

"Lindgren will start the game, and Zachary Fucale will be his backup. Beyond that, we'll see how the game goes and decide whether we'll split the work between the pipes, or let Lindgren play the entire night," shared Julien. "He's 100% healthy now, but it's still preseason, so we're going to be careful."

Video: Claude Julien on his system

Game time is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at the Bell Centre, and will be broadcast on TSN2 and RDS in Canada.

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