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Trying to get back in the groove

The Canadiens practiced in Brossard on Friday before hitting the road for Toronto and New Jersey

by Vincent Regis. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski. @canadiensmtl / canadiens.com

BROSSARD - After dropping a 3-0 decision to the New York Islanders, the Canadiens hit the ice for practice on Friday morning before flying to Toronto where they'll battle the Maple Leafs on Saturday.

David Desharnais, Sven Andrighetto and Nikita Nesterov could all be back in the lineup down the 401. Both forwards skated on the fourth line with Torrey Mitchell, while the Russian rearguard was paired with Nathan Beaulieu.

Head coach Claude Julien did not confirm any lineup changes, but he alluded to the possibility of switching things up.

"I wanted to see something different. I still have time to make decisions before the game on Saturday night," said Julien, who mentioned that it would just be "a matter of time" before Desharnais would be re-inserted in the lineup again. "We never doubted David. He can certainly help with all of his experience."

Video: Claude Julien on the transition game

Brian Flynn and Michael McCarron were the extra skaters during the on-ice session, while Greg Pateryn was the odd man out on the blue line.

"There are pros and cons in every situation, so we want to have a close look at it before the game against Toronto," added Julien. "We also want to keep our options open on the penalty kill. Flynn is doing good work with Mitchell when we're down a man."

The Canadiens are set to go up against a reinvigorated Maple Leafs squad that boasts three of the top rookies in the League in Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner and William Nylander, so Julien is hoping to see his group play an intelligent brand of hockey at the ACC.

Video: Nathan Beaulieu on support players

"They're full of energy, but we have to use our experience to our advantage while still respecting their strengths. I'm expecting a solid performance from everyone against Toronto. We'd like to see every single player take charge of the situation," continued Julien, who coached his 1,000th career game in the NHL ranks on Thursday night.

A sense of urgency

The Canadiens find themselves just four points up on the New York Islanders, who currently occupy the final Eastern Conference playoff spot, so Julien insists that his players need to be more hungry and aggressive going forward.

"We have to have that sense of urgency, like every other team in this battle right now. We have to have the same mindset," mentioned Julien. "Defensively, we've already improved. We're giving up less scoring chances."

The next step will be to improve their transition game, which should have a positive effect on their offensive output as well.

"Our transition game has to be better than it was [on Thursday night]. We worked on it and on our offense. We have to score goals," indicated Julien. "One of the big issues is our neutral zone transition, which hasn't been good. It's got to be quick. You've got to have some support and you've got to make sure that you cross that blue line with some speed. When teams stand you up, you've got to retrieve those loose pucks."

Video: Brendan Gallagher on scoring chances

Blanked four times in their last eight games, the Canadiens need to get their swagger back on offense, and Julien structured Friday's practice session with just that in mind.

"The transition game is important, but so is the confidence of the players. They need to find confidence to score goals and today we did some drills where they had outnumbered situations where they were able to score some goals. Confidence is a big part of the game as you know, so definitely those two areas today were prioritized," concluded Julien.

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