BROSSARD, Quebec -- The Montreal Canadiens are going through their worst stretch of the season, with one win in their past seven games, and coach Michel Therrien is attempting something drastic to help get them out of it.
Since taking over as Canadiens coach prior to the start of the 2012-13 season, Therrien has relied on Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais to form two-thirds his top forward line.
Over the past three seasons Pacioretty has been one of the best goal-scorers in the NHL, and there was a belief that his chemistry with Desharnais dating to their time together in the American Hockey League was one of the reasons why he has had so much success.
Under Therrien, Pacioretty has played 84 percent of his even-strength minutes with Desharnais, according to HockeyAnalysis.com.
That, however, is about to change, with Therrien intending to split up his go-to offensive pairing when the Canadiens host the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday.
Therrien placed Pacioretty on the left wing of a line with Alex Galchenyuk at center and Brendan Gallagher on right wing in the third period of a 4-1 loss at the Dallas Stars on Saturday. Therrien stuck with the line at practice Monday, and said he will use it Tuesday against the Canucks.
"At times in the season, things go stale, and that's what's happening right now," Pacioretty said. "We need to change things up and find a spark."
Desharnais will center a line with PA Parenteau and Michael Bournival, who is returning from a shoulder injury that cost him the past 15 games.
Like his longtime linemate, Desharnais acknowledged that things were not working and that something had to give.
Pacioretty had two goals in his past eight games, and Desharnais had four assists over the same span.
"We haven't been productive. We get scoring chances, but we don't put them in. Whether you get 100 million scoring chances or not, if you don't put them in, it makes no difference. You have to produce, and when you don't you have to expect changes," Desharnais said. "I don't think we've been outstanding, and I felt it coming. We're in a business where you have to produce and you have to win. When it doesn't happen changes will be made, and I expected that to happen."
With center Lars Eller still out with an undisclosed injury, the Canadiens are short a center and moving Galchenyuk to the middle is almost as desperate a move for Therrien as splitting up Desharnais and Pacioretty.
In Dallas on Saturday, Therrien preferred to start the game with rookie Sven Andrighetto, who was making his NHL debut, at center rather than use Galchenyuk.
Now Galchenyuk figures to see a lot of ice time at center Tuesday in offensive situations, being that Pacioretty's line tends to start its shifts in the offensive zone more than any other Canadiens line.
"It gives you that kind of fresh feeling," Pacioretty said. "You come to the rink today and feel like it's almost like Day One of training camp. You have new looks out there, and personally I'm excited to go out there and try something new. I think everyone in the room has a little bit of a spark right now. Hopefully it can work and translate to the game."
One of the problems, Pacioretty admitted, was that his combination with Desharnais had become too predictable.
Gallagher and Parenteau have rotated in and out at right wing on their line, but regardless of who played there, it became obvious that the No. 1 priority for the line was for Desharnais to dish it to Pacioretty, pigeon-holing each player into a very specific role. Desharnais hardly ever shoots the puck, and Pacioretty does practically nothing but.
Now, with Galchenyuk in the middle, a player with a lethal wrist shot, perhaps that threat will give opposing defenders something else to think about when Pacioretty is on the ice.
"They know that [Desharnais] likes to pass me the puck. At the end of the day, it makes it a lot easier [for opponents] to play against. So maybe with a fresh look, people won't know the dynamic of the line," Pacioretty said. "We played with a couple of different wingers this year, but it was always headed in the same direction, and that was me shooting and other people looking for me.
"I think I myself have to be more of a dual threat as well and adjust my game as people know my tendencies now."