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Canadiens turn to rookie Beaulieu in must-win Game 6

by Arpon Basu

MONTREAL -- Rookie defenseman Nathan Beaulieu made his Stanley Cup Playoff debut and Daniel Briere re-entered the lineup for the Montreal Canadiens in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Boston Bruins on Monday night.

The Bruins, who lead the best-of-7 series 3-2, made no changes to the lineup that won 4-2 in Game 5 on Saturday.

Beaulieu has not played a game for the Canadiens since April 9 and most recently played with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League on April 19.

Beaulieu took the spot of defensemen Douglas Murray to the left of Mike Weaver on Montreal's third defense pairing. He brings a completely different skill set than Murray with his strong skating and ability to move the puck up ice.

Considering the Canadiens have not scored an even strength goal in 147:27 against Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, Beaulieu's offensive potential was enticing to coach Michel Therrien despite some issues in the rookie's defensive game.

Forward Travis Moen was scratched in favor of Briere, who was scratched for Game 5. Briere played center on the fourth line between Brandon Prust and Dale Weise on Monday.

It was the sixth time in as many games in this series that Therrien has made at least one lineup change.

Beaulieu was added to the Canadiens "Black Aces" squad during the first round of the playoffs, but he has been practicing with the main group since Montreal's return home following Game 2 in Boston.

"It's been good to be around the group," Beaulieu said after the morning skate Monday. "Playoff hockey, it doesn't get any bigger than that, and it doesn't get any bigger than Montreal."

Beaulieu has never played a playoff game as a professional hockey player. He's played 23 regular-season games with the Canadiens and 124 with Hamilton over the past two seasons. He has four assists and no goals in the NHL and 14 goals and 44 assists in the AHL.

He did play 61 playoff games with the St. John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, including a Memorial Cup championship in 2011 and a loss in the semifinal in 2012.

Beaulieu's debut is remarkably similar to the debut of one of his teammates four years ago. In 2010, the Canadiens were down 3-2 in their first round series against the Washington Capitals and coming home for Game 6 when then-coach Jacques Martin decided to insert another young, high-risk, offensive defenseman into the lineup.

P.K. Subban assisted on Montreal's second goal in a 4-1 win, one in which Jaroslav Halak made 53 saves, and the Canadiens went on to win Game 7 in Washington two days later.

Subban hardly led the Canadiens to victory in that series, but he contributed. Therrien would surely love it if Beaulieu could do the same.

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