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Claude Julien has positive message for Canadiens

Coach holds first practice, says first-place Montreal shouldn't panic

by Sean Farrell / Correspondent

BROSSARD, Quebec -- Claude Julien accentuated the positive in running the first practice of his second stint as coach of the Montreal Canadiens on Friday.

Julien, who replaced Michel Therrien on Tuesday, reminded his players that Montreal leads the Atlantic Division.

"Guys had to go on the ice today feeling good about themselves and I made sure that that happened," said Julien, who was fired by the Boston Bruins on Feb. 7. "Guys want hope, guys want excitement, guys want positive messages, and it's easy for a new coach to come in and give those positive messages. So I think it was about feeling good about themselves and I wanted them to know how good I think the team is."

Montreal (31-19-8) started the season 13-1-1 but has gone 18-18-7 since. The Canadiens, who lost their last game under Therrien 4-0 at Boston on Sunday heading into a five-day break, play the Winnipeg Jets at Bell Centre on Saturday (2 p.m. ET; CBC, SN, TVA Sports).


READ: Claude Julien impact


Montreal is 1-5-1 in its past seven games, but Julien was not dwelling on that.

"You know, we're in first place, so there's no need to panic, there's a need to fix," Julien said of the Canadiens, who lead the second-place Ottawa Senators by four points in the Atlantic. "So we're not panicking. We're going to fix things so that we can get back on the right track and we're going to start winning again. And that's where the focus has to be for myself as a coach and for them as players."

This is the second time Julien has replaced Therrien with the Canadiens; he made his NHL coaching debut with Montreal after Therrien was fired during the 2002-03 season. Julien was fired in January 2006.

"It kind of felt like a new season," goaltender Carey Price said of practice Friday. "It definitely had that vibe."

The Canadiens have been shut out in three of their past five games.

"I think our team wasn't responding," Price said. "We weren't playing with as much enthusiasm as maybe we should have been, so that definitely woke everybody up. You saw the energy that we had in practice today and that was a good thing."

Price was asked if the Canadiens were no longer responding to Therrien.

"A little bit, I don't think the guys were playing with a lot of confidence either," Price said.

Sunday was the first time Price faced Boston without Julien as Bruins coach. The winningest coach in Bruins history, Julien was 419-246-94 in 10 seasons in Boston and won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and the Presidents' Trophy in 2014.

"They had a winning recipe, so that's definitely something to be excited about," Price said. "They always seemed to play well structurally and they always seemed to play with possession a lot of the time."

The most significant changes Julien made at practice were to the forward lines.

"He's been preaching a lot of offense," left wing Max Pacioretty said. "You know, take care of your end, but once we have the puck we don't want to give it back. And in my mind that's offensive thinking. A good defense is holding onto the puck in the offensive zone and not just giving it away, not just putting it on net for no reason, and those are some things that he already harps [on], so I was excited to hear that."

On Saturday, Alex Galchenyuk will center the top line, replacing Phillip Danault between Pacioretty and right wing Alexander Radulov. Center Tomas Plekanec moved up to the second line with right wing Brendan Gallagher and left wing Paul Byron.

Danault practiced on the third line with right wing Andrew Shaw and left wing Arturri Lehkonen.

"The ultimate goal in all this, and why I put [Plekanec] where I did today, is because I want him to play good hockey," said Julien, who was his first NHL coach in 2003-04. "I want to give him that chance. Often, a player needs encouragement, needs to feel that he is important, and that's the chance that I want to give him."

Pacioretty said Julien probably got feedback from the assistant coaches "as to who likes playing with who, and who's had success in the past." 

Julien said, "We're going to give them the chance, not just Galchenyuk but everybody, to prove themself. They have a new opportunity with a new coach."

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