BROOKLYN - The Canadiens held the first practice of their six-game, 12-day road trip - a Friday morning skate at the Barclays Center ahead of their evening tilt with the Islanders - and were met with some lineup and line changes when they hit the ice.
But although head coach Claude Julien said that he would be using his post-trade-deadline surplus of bodies on a rotational basis of sorts, one player who will be staying put on Friday is centerman Jacob de la Rose, who has enjoyed a string of strong performances since coming back to the lineup after a three-game absence.
"For the last two games, he's done some good work. We had a good conversation just beforehand and for him, it's a chance to show he's able," relayed Julien of de la Rose, who was slotted up the middle between Paul Byron and Nikita Scherbak at the skate, and who has an assist, 10 hits, two blocked shots and five shots on goal in his last two contests. "He has to also have an impact on the game and in the last two we've seen, he seems to be having one - whether it be physically or with making plays. He has to keep gaining his confidence in all areas of his game, because he's capable of it."
Video: Claude Julien's pregame press conference @ NYI
That said, Julien did make several other adjustments to his lines, a phenomenon captain Max Pacioretty pointed out as something he and his teammates should grow accustomed to at this point in the schedule.
"Right now is the time for evaluation, so I don't know if lines will stick that much for the rest of the year," said Pacioretty, who found himself on a trio with Artturi Lehkonen and Phillip Danault on Friday morning. "I think they're going to try guys out in different situations and try and see what guys are made of. I don't expect to stay with one line the rest of the year."
Video: Max Pacioretty on his preparation
One of the coach's changes resulted in a five-on-five reunion for power play unit-mates Jonathan Drouin and Alex Galchenyuk.
"We've played well together, it's about finding ways to score," outlined Drouin, who saw Brendan Gallagher complete the trio at the morning skate. "I think we're playing well, we're controlling the puck well, but we're having trouble creating quality chances in games. If we're able to do that - Gally does a good job helping create space for us - it should help."
Video: Jonathan Drouin on playing with Alex Galchenyuk
In other changes from last game, Julien told reporters after the skate that Charles Hudon would join Nicolas Deslauriers, and Logan Shaw in sitting out the rematch against the Islanders, whom the Habs had defeated 3-1 two days before in Montreal. While the latter two were scratches on Wednesday, Hudon will be missing the game at the Barclays Center with a minor hand injury.
"[Hudon] blocked a shot last game with his hand. His hand is a little swollen right now, and he's not comfortable shooting the puck," described Julien, who also announced that Jordie Benn would sit in favor of David Schlemko, and that Charlie Lindgren would be in the crease. "We're going to give him time for that to heal. It's nothing more than an inside-the-hand bruise, so we just have to give it some time."
The Habs dealt the Islanders a blow to their playoff hopes when they beat them on Wednesday, but New York is still in the hunt. They sit four points out of the final Wild Card spot currently held by the Columbus Blue Jackets, and Julien is confident his troops will use that as motivation come puck drop.
"I remember when we were in a position to make the playoffs and we'd play against teams like that. I told myself that they liked to play the spoilers and that's for sure a way to draw some motivation, but that's only one way. We want to make it hard for all the teams we play. But at the same time, like I often say, we want to continue to improve," concluded Julien. "Every game, we talk about different areas of our game where we want to see some progression. That's another way we can motivate ourselves."