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Canadiens staying calm after series-opening loss

Lines, defense pairings unchanged at practice before Game 2 vs. Rangers

by Arpon Basu @ArponBasu / LNH.com Senior Managing Editor

BROSSARD, Quebec -- Coach Claude Julien continued putting his stamp on the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday. He did so by doing nothing.

One day after a 2-0 loss to the New York Rangers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference First Round series, the Canadiens practiced at their suburban training facility. The forward lines Julien used the night before remained intact, as did the defense pairings. He didn't touch a thing.

The possibility remains that Julien will make changes for Game 2 of the best-of-7 series on Friday (7 p.m. ET; USA, CBC, TVA Sports, MSG), but the message he sent to his players at practice Thursday remained crystal clear.

"I don't think there's any reason to panic here, and I don't think there's any reason to make major changes to even show panic," Julien said. "We're not trying to hide anything. There are a couple of guys who will be the first to tell you, 'I need to be better.' We all know that. But at the same time, we're a confident group that if we play our game we're very capable of winning with the lineup we have now."

 

[RELATED: Complete Canadiens vs. Rangers series coverage]

 

It would be hard to imagine something similar happening under former coach Michel Therrien, who was fired Feb. 14.

Therrien was notorious for tinkering with his lines not only between games, but within them as well. When trailing after two periods, he would often switch his lines for the third period; if the changes produced a comeback or some improvement in the team's play, Therrien would use those lines the next day at practice.

Julien stuck with his lines throughout Game 1 with one tiny exception: He moved Alex Galchenyuk back onto his old line with Andrew Shaw and Artturi Lehkonen for one shift with less than three minutes remaining in the third period.

That was it.

For a team that had grown accustomed to constant movement throughout the lineup, to see patience and consistency in Game 1 and the following day at practice was a refreshing change and helped deliver Julien's message of calm despite being down 1-0 in the series.

"We've won a lot of games like that, so no need to change everything right away," center Phillip Danault said. "I think we deserve another chance. It was my first playoff game, and that was the case for a bunch of guys in here as well. So it's a game to forget and we move on the next one.

"If you want to have chemistry as a line, the more you play together the better it is. We know it wasn't our best game. We didn't play bad, but we know as a team we can play much better."

Considering the Canadiens were unable to score a goal, one change Julien may want to consider is finding a bigger role for Galchenyuk, Montreal's third-leading regular-season scorer with 44 points (17 goals, 27 assists) in 61 games.

Galchenyuk is playing on the fourth line with Steve Ott and Andreas Martinsen, a trio that produced some scoring chances in Game 1 but one that doesn't particularly match well with Galchenyuk's high-end skill set.

Galchenyuk played 13:52 in Game 1, in the same range of ice time as the third line of Tomas Plekanec, Brendan Gallagher and Paul Byron. Julien acknowledged Thursday he may need to expand Galchenyuk's role.

"It's up to me find him some ice at times," Julien said. "But right now it really is about the team and everyone's got to bring something to the team no matter where they're playing. I don't know how he's perceived outside our dressing room here, but every chat I've had with him he's been extremely receptive, he's been good. I know he cares, I know he wants to do well. As long as he's like that I'm going to keep working with him and I'm going to try to make him the best player possible."

The Canadiens are convinced that if they play Game 2 the way they played Game 1, chances are good they will be able to tie the series. But whether it's by getting Galchenyuk more ice time or by mixing up the lines or simply making sure the Canadiens bury more of the scoring chances they created Wednesday, something will most definitely need to change in Game 2 for that to happen.

And they know it.

"I think we played a solid game [Wednesday]," forward Alexander Radulov said. "We didn't get the goals, and it's hard to win when you're not scoring. We all understand that and we're all going to put our effort [Thursday] to try to win that hockey game."

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