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Searching for a spark

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

BROSSARD – After dropping three straight games and six of their last seven outings, Michel Therrien elected to shake things up at practice on Monday afternoon at the Bell Sports Complex.

With a tilt against the Western Conference powerhouse Vancouver Canucks on the horizon, the Canadiens bench boss changed the dynamic of his forward lines, looking to right the ship on offense to begin an extended home stand.

Therrien fielded a top line featuring Alex Galchenyuk at center, flanked by Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher. For his part, Tomas Plekanec was paired with young guns Jiri Sekac and Sven Andrighetto, while David Desharnais centered a line with Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau and Michael Bournival. The fourth line consisted of Brandon Prust, Manny Malhotra and Dale Weise.

Monday’s changes didn’t come as a surprise to any of Therrien’s troops, all of whom understand full well the need to find a way out of their current funk as soon as possible.

“You want to give the team the best chance to win. At times during the season, things just go stale. That’s what’s happening right now. We’ve got to try to change things up and find a spark. Hopefully with the new lines, everyone can contribute,” offered Pacioretty who could suit up without Desharnais alongside him for the first time this season come Tuesday night at the Bell Centre. “Moves like these give you that fresh feeling. You come to the rink and you feel like it’s Day 1 of training camp. You have new looks out there. I’m excited to go out there and try something new. I think everyone in the room has a little bit of a spark right now, and hopefully it can translate into the game.”

That’s what Therrien is banking on going into the first of five straight games on home ice over the next 12 days. Having been outscored by a 23-13 margin since registering a 2-0 win over the Boston Bruins back on November 22, the veteran head coach was adamant a shuffle was necessary.

“It’s not always easy making these types of decisions, but with the loss of Lars Eller to injury, we’ve got to try to make the best decisions possible. We see that opportunity right now. It’s all about results. We always want results, not only on one night, but game after game, shift after shift. I’m confident with the lines that we put together. I like the balance,” stressed Therrien, who indicated in his post-practice press conference that Eller met with team doctors on Monday morning to further evaluate the injury he suffered against the Blackhawks last Friday night in Chicago. “We believe we were due to make changes. Sometimes, you feel comfortable playing with someone. When you play with a different guy, it forces you to focus a little bit more. I see a lot of positives about changing our lines and forcing the players to focus on small details.”

So do the players themselves, who are anything but satisfied with their inability to collect valuable points in the standings as of late by ultimately being their own worst enemy.

“We have lots of areas to work on right now. It’s hard to pinpoint just one. I don’t think it’s an X’s and O’s thing. I think it’s a competing thing and playing the right way. It’s not something where we have to change the system. It’s not something where we have to go to the whiteboard. It’s in the room right now, and it’s about finding a way to show up for 60 minutes. If you don’t play for 60 minutes in this league, you’re going to lose games. That’s what’s happening with us right now,” confided Pacioretty, who leads the Canadiens with 12 goals and sits tied for team lead with 20 points on the season. “We’ve got to come out from the opening horn to the closing whistle. There are no excuses. We’re back at home now. We have lots of time to practice and rest. We have zero excuses in the world right now.”

Desharnais, who boasts three assists in his last four games, but hasn’t scored since November 15 against the Philadelphia Flyers, shared similar thoughts after Monday’s workout.

“We played two bad games in Minnesota and Dallas, but I think we played well in Colorado and we didn’t get the bounces we needed in Chicago. We’re back at home, and we need to get back to basics. We have to compete more,” mentioned the Canadiens’ No. 51, whose squad will also go up against the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings on Friday night in La Belle Province. “We’re in a business where you have to produce and you have to win, and things aren’t working right now. You could see this coming. Sometimes, that’s what it takes to get a spark going. We’ll start fresh and work.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for

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