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Canadiens welcome Blues to Bell Centre

by Arpon Basu

BLUES (8-2-2) at CANADIENS (8-7-0)


Last 10: St. Louis 6-2-2; Montreal 5-5-0

Season series: This is the first of two meetings between the Montreal Canadiens and St. Louis Blues. The two teams have not met since Jan. 10, 2012, a 3-0 Blues win at Bell Centre.

Big story: That shutout victory 22 months ago was the first time Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak played in Montreal since he was traded to St. Louis by the Canadiens in the summer of 2010. Halak was named first star and received a standing ovation from the crowd that night, but nearly two years have passed since and Canadiens goalie Carey Price is off to an excellent start to the season. Montreal has scored one goal against Halak in two meetings since the trade, and Price is looking for his victory against his former teammate.

“It was my first game back after I got traded,” Halak told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Monday. “It’s always nice to remind myself that it was a great game, but it’s the past. They’ve got a different team now and it’s a different challenge, every game for us and for them, so I’m sure it’s going to be a big game [Tuesday]."

Team scope:

Blues: Coming off a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, the team’s first regulation loss in seven games, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock broke up one of the more effective scoring lines in the NHL at practice Monday in an effort to balance the scoring on his team.

The line of T.J. Oshie, David Backes and Alexander Steen has accounted for 20 of the 43 goals scored this season by the Blues, with 12 coming from Steen alone. But Hitchcock removed Oshie from the line to play him with Derek Roy and Vladimir Sobotka, while Chris Stewart grabbed Oshie’s spot on the top line.

“I’m going to say it again, for us to get better, we need more participants,” Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch. “So sometimes it doesn’t matter how good you have one line, you need more participants. Possibly it’s the time that they use their impact to help other people play better. We need that. We need more people playing better.”

Canadiens: Canadiens coach Michel Therrien also did some line-juggling at practice Monday, placing Alex Galchenyuk at center of the top line with Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher, while Lars Eller shifted down to the third line between Rene Bourque and Louis Leblanc.

Galchenyuk was moved to his natural center position on that line in the third period of a 4-1 loss Saturday at the Colorado Avalanche when Therrien decided to bench center David Desharnais, who will be a healthy scratch against St. Louis.

The Canadiens have been reluctant to play Galchenyuk at center because they wanted his transition to the NHL to be a smooth one, but it appears the time for him to make that next transition has arrived.

“I’ve liked his development since last season,” Therrien said. “He’s gained some confidence and he’s gained some comprehension of the game. We’ve been thinking about [moving him to center] for a while, but we needed to find the right moment.

“It just so happened that moment was the third period of the last game. I liked what I saw.”

Who’s hot: For the Blues, Steen has scored at least goal in all but two games in this season, and he has at least a point in all but one game…For the Canadiens, Brendan Gallagher has a goal in two straight games and defenseman P.K. Subban has three points in two games.

Injury report: The Blues will be without forwards Magnus Paajarvi (upper body) and Brenden Morrow (upper body)…The Canadiens will be without forwards Daniel Briere (concussion), Brandon Prust (shoulder) and Travis Moen (face), and defensemen Alexei Emelin (knee) and Davis Drewiske (shoulder).

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