BROSSARD - He hinted at it the day before and on Thursday, head coach Claude Julien confirmed that he'd be making some lineup changes ahead of the Habs' game against the Minnesota Wild at the Bell Centre.
The Canadiens bench boss likely made the decision to help his team battle a strong and robust squad on the other side.
"They're a big team; they play a pretty physical game. They always give us a hard time. They're well-structured," described Julien. "They're a team that protects the front of their net well. They also reply well defensively."
To that end, Julien announced after morning skate that forward Nick Cousins would draw in in favor of Jordan Weal, while Cale Fleury will skate on the backend in place of Christian Folin.
In the case of Cousins, the coach wants to see more of the 26-year-old's sandpaper and skill against Minnesota.
"We want him to show us the same thing we saw in preseason. He's a guy who's not afraid of getting his hands dirty. He's good in front of the net and he has good hands," praised Julien. He's an experienced player who should bring a bit more toughness tonight. We're going to need that against a team like the Wild."
Cousins, who signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Canadiens in July, will be making his debut in bleu-blanc-rouge and can't wait to feel the rush of stepping out onto the legendary Montreal ice.
"I got a taste of the atmosphere at the Bell Centre in preseason, but it's always different in the regular season," shared Cousins, who's put up 73 points (31G, 42A) in 259 career games with the Philadelphia Flyers and Arizona Coyotes. "I'm really excited."
Video: Nick Cousins on making his Canadiens debut
After sitting out the team's first six games of the season both as a healthy scratch and due to injury, the Belleville, ON native is going to try to and stick to his game and not try to do anything too fancy.
"I'm going to try not to think too much and not complicate things. I want to keep things simple," added Cousins. "I want to play my game and treat this game like any other."
In Fleury's case, the rookie will be getting his first taste of action since playing the first two games of the season in Carolina and Toronto, and knows exactly what he needs to do if he wants to avoid watching any more games from the press gallery.
"I think just be consistent. My last game against Toronto, that was the thing I struggled with most," outlined Fleury, who skated for 14:52 against the Hurricanes and 10:28 against the Maple Leafs. "I had some good shifts but I had a lot of bad shifts, too."
Julien agrees, and believes it's just a matter of getting the jitters out of his system. Pairing him with a veteran like Ben Chiarot against the Wild should help.
"He was just a nervous guy his first two games. We'll see how he does tonight with Ben Chiarot," shared the coach. "Let's hope he'll be able to play with a lot of confidence."
The 20-year-old rearguard's trademark self-assurance seemed to shine through when talking about his D partner-to-be.
"I think Ben and I should play well together. He's a big guy, pretty physical as well as myself, so I think we can play physical and just move the puck well," Fleury said of the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Chiarot. "We should do well tonight."
Video: Cale Fleury on playing his first home game
Unlike Cousins, Fleury has seen some regular season action as a Hab, but this will be his first time playing for the Canadiens in Montreal and the youngster is fully amped up for the experience.
"It should be great," he said. "Even in the preseason, the atmosphere was great in there so I can't wait for a regular season game."
The Wild-Canadiens tilt gets underway at 7:00 p.m. at the Bell Centre. For tickets, click here.