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Trading places

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

TAMPA BAY – With two players swapping spots in Tuesday night’s lineup, the Habs may just find the spark they’re looking for in Tampa Bay.

Following a tough stretch that saw them walk away with only a single point in their last three outings, the Canadiens lineup will look a little different during Tuesday’s game in Tampa. While the change may seem minor on the surface, Michel Therrien is clearly hoping that having wingers Max Pacioretty and Brandon Prust switch places will provide a subtle but effective change that could help shift the Habs back into the winning column.

“Something wasn’t going well enough and I have to be able to do more to help my team win. Things got shaken up a bit, so hopefully I can get going here,” confirmed Pacioretty, on the coach’s decision to provide him with a change of scenery. “We’re a team and when we’re playing the way we can and everyone’s stepping up, we’re very tough to play against. But with that loss to the Leafs, we obviously weren’t at our best and things needed to change.”

Max Pacioretty and Brandon Prust

While Pacioretty has a very respectable six points in seven games so far this season, the bruising power forward is still on the hunt for his first goal of the campaign after lighting the lamp 33 times in 2011-12. Impressed by what he’s seen from the team’s rookies to date, Pacioretty is hoping that his work ethic, speed and size could add even more impact to what’s arguably been the team’s highest energy line this season.

“As time goes on, they’re going to have a little more responsibility on this team. Hopefully they can keep improving every day and hopefully I can teach them a few things and they can do the same for me,” said Pacioretty, who will try to help Alex Galchenyuk ring in his 19th birthday with an appearance on the scoresheet against the Lightning. “Everyone’s fighting to make a statement on this team right now. We’ve lost three in a row and everyone wants to be the guy to step up. I played a bit with Gally [Brendan Gallagher] at the end of last game, and Galchenyuk is obviously a very gifted player and it would be great to all work well as a line.”

On the other side of the visitors’ dressing room at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, Prust was preparing for a change up of his own as he’ll step in for Pacioretty to try to spark new linemates David Desharnais and Erik Cole. Two-thirds of the team’s top offensive line last season, both Desharnais and Cole have struggled to hit their groove in 2012-13 and the addition of a high-impact player like Prust could be just what the doctor ordered.

“It’s exciting to play with those two guys. They’re great players and I don’t think it’s really a challenge to join a line with them. I’m just going to try to do the same thing, bring energy and try to get those guys the pucks so they can make great plays,” shared Prust, who clearly had a positive effect on the two rookies he’s played with thus far as a Hab.

“Throughout the year, things change, lines change and you have to mix things up. I’m happy wherever I’m needed,” he added. “We want to come out rearing to go, set the tempo and dictate the play right out of the gates.”

To get back on track, the Habs will have to contend with an equally motivated Tampa Bay Lightning squad looking to avoid their fifth consecutive loss, and Michel Therrien will be looking to see how his team responds following their toughest loss of the season.

“Having bad performances over the course of a season is something that can happens to all good teams at some point in a season. The important thing is to find out how a team reacts to that kind of adversity. I liked what I saw at practice today and I’m expecting the players to have a good game tonight,” explained the Habs bench boss, who will need to ensure that his team finished as strong as it starts on Tuesday night with 19 of the Lightning’s 42 goals on the year coming in the third period.

“In the Lightning’s case, they’re having a tough stretch too and have just lost four in a row,” added Therrien. “We’re expecting to go up against a very focused, very hungry group and we’re going to have to ready to play a game that’s very important to both teams involved.”

Justin Fragapane is a writer for

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