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Shuffling the deck

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

BROSSARD – Heading into a rare Sunday night matchup against the Flames at the Bell Centre, the Habs’ clocks might not be the only things changing this weekend in Montreal.

After watching his team score just one goal in 170 minutes of regulation hockey out west last week, head coach Michel Therrien shuffled his lines late in Vancouver, ultimately sparking a pair of goals on offense to allow the Canadiens to return home with three of a possible six points on the road.

Saturday morning at practice in Brossard -- the team’s first since returning home on Friday -- it appeared as though Therrien would be sticking with those line changes once more.

“It’s a question of results. We’re all for stability as long as the results are there, but recently, we haven’t been producing offensively. We’ve had some trouble scoring goals, which is something we’ve otherwise been good at since the start of the season,” explained the Habs’ bench boss. “We wanted to stir things up, and the results were positive. But now, will we continue heading down the same road? We’ll see for sure tomorrow.”

Teamed up with new linemates for the third time this season, Brendan Gallagher is taking the potential changes in stride.

“Lines change all the time, but I think we’ve had success with these most recent ones. They allowed us to get back into the game [against Vancouver] so maybe we’ve found something and we’ll just try to stick with it,” noted the 22-year-old winger. “As a player, whoever you’re on the ice with, you’ve always got to play hard, smart, and continue doing the stuff you’ve always done. It doesn’t change much.”

That’s especially true when you can count on having a familiar face by your side.

“I’ve played with Chucky a lot so I know what to expect with him,” admitted Gallagher, who was reunited with teammate Alex Galchenyuk -- notably playing center -- at practice. “Obviously he’s a very good player who can make a lot happen with the puck so I’m happy to be playing with him. Plus, [Rene] Bourque is the kind of guy who will work to find loose pucks and create space for us, so hopefully it will be a good line and we can make it work.”

Paired for less than a half dozen shifts in Vancouver, Galchenyuk meanwhile is eager to build on Thursday’s brief outing, during which he scored his fourth goal of the season, tying him for second on the team.

“We only played three or four shifts, but it all depends on how we play in the games,” acknowledged the 20-year-old forward. “We know it’ll take time to adjust and chemistry’s a big part of it, but we’re all hungry, we want to create offense and Bourque and Gally are two fast guys on the wing. I just need to get them the puck and convert quickly.”

If Galchenyuk and Gallagher can find comfort in the familiar, then Dale Weise can look forward to something new entirely.

With three points in his last four games, including an assist on the game-tying goal in B.C., the Winnipeg native practised with Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais on the Canadiens’ first line on Saturday. Although Therrien would not confirm his roster for Sunday, Weise was eager to make the most of the opportunity.

“It’s obviously easy to play with those two guys. Patches is such a good shooter -- he’s such a good skater -- and Davey’s an unbelievable guy to play with. It’s just practice -- I don’t know what the final lineup will be -- but it’s fun to play with those guys, that’s for sure,” confirmed the 26-year-old winger, who nevertheless knows he drives a hard bargain heading into Sunday’s rematch against the Flames.

“We’ve had three shifts and two goals, so I think we’re just bringing some offense.”

Steven Nechay is a writer for canadiens.com

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