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Drouin, not Galchenyuk, to play center for Canadiens

Former Lightning forward hasn't played in middle regularly since junior level

by Sean Farrell / Correspondent

LAVAL-SUR-LE-LAC, Quebec -- Jonathan Drouin will play center when the Montreal Canadiens open training camp later this week, and Alex Galchenyuk will not.

Coach Claude Julien and general manager Marc Bergevin each made it clear at the Canadiens' golf tournament on Monday that Drouin, who played wing for the Tampa Bay Lightning, will be at center when camp opens Friday. 

"It's definitely a different game in the NHL, you know, there's going to be some learning stuff at the beginning, but getting back to it shouldn't be that hard," said Drouin, 22, who was acquired from the Lightning on June 15 in a trade for the Canadiens' top prospect, defenseman Mikhail Sergachev.

Drouin, who signed a six-year, $33 million contract with the Canadiens the day of the trade, hasn't played center regularly since his time with Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (2011-14).

Tweet from @CanadiensMTL: ��Le premier match au Centre Bell va ��tre incroyable.��"The first game at the Bell Centre will be amazing." - @jodrouin27 #GoHabsGo

"Well first of all, he's played there before, and I don't care when it was, and it wasn't that long ago, and he's got the attributes to be a great centerman," Julien said. "He likes the space, he likes to use all of the ice and that gives him an opportunity to express himself offensively as we'd all like to see him do."

After saying that Galchenyuk would not be given another opportunity to play center, Bergevin denied that he acquired Drouin specifically to fill the No. 1 center role.

"I just want to be clear on this, I didn't make that trade to say well, [Drouin] will be our next center," Bergevin said. "No matter where he plays, I would have made that trade because getting a young player with that skill level, it doesn't come that often, and especially a French-Canadian kid that wants to be here, wants to be successful, it's something that I couldn't pass on."

Galchenyuk, who signed a three-year, $14.7 million contract on July 5, began last season as Montreal's top-line center and had 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) in 25 games when he sustained a knee injury that kept him out six weeks.

But his defensive play was suspect, and when he struggled and had an injury setback after his return, he was moved to left wing late in the season and remained there through the Canadiens' six-game series loss to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I've seen Alex every day, and at this time, centerman is a tough position, demanding, and I'm sure as we speak today Alex is not able to play that position every day," Bergevin said. "And I don't need 10 more tries. I know he's not."

Galchenyuk, who was the subject of trade rumors during the offseason, was again asked what position he preferred to play.

"After answering that question, I know I'm back in Montreal," Galchenyuk said. "I'm trying to find a new answer, but I want to be the best player I can be, and for me, whether it's on the wing or at center, I still have to go out there and play the best hockey I can play and be successful for the team."

Bergevin said the loss of veteran defenseman Andrei Markov left a big hole, which he said the Canadiens will have to address by committee while referencing the additions of defensemen Mark Streit and David Schlemko.

"And let's keep in mind, you know, we didn't lose a 25-year-old defenseman," Bergevin said. "(With) all respect to Andrei, he's going to turn 39 in December, and at some point we had to move forward. But we tried our best to keep him, and he decided to go back to Russia."

Karl Alzner is the Canadiens' most significant addition on defense. Alzner, who signed a five-year, $23.125 million contract on July 1, was dazzled by his first team golf tournament in the NHL.

"There's a set-up to stand in for media," Alzner said. "It's hilarious, instead of just standing in the grass or on the street, it's well-orchestrated. It's the closest I'll ever feel like I'm on the PGA tour, so I'll soak it all in."

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