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Martin hopes line changes enough to stoke offense

by Corey Masisak /
MONTREAL -- Canadiens coach Jacques Martin has been going with a short bench for a good portion of this postseason, but it appears he will make a more concerted effort to get everyone involved in Game 4 of Montreal's Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS).

Martin shook up his forward lines for the morning skate, returning Andrei Kostitsyn to a line with Tomas Plekanec and Michael Cammalleri, and leveling out the bottom two groups.

"I think where people fit in the puzzle goes game to game," Martin said. "I think at times you have to look at your lines and see what is being created, and also the challenge is to get four lines that will help us win the game tonight."

Montreal has deployed a very clear-cut third line featuring Dominic Moore, Maxim Lapierre and either Travis Moen or Benoit Pouliot during this postseason run. The fourth-line players often have been left with little ice time, but Game 3 was a new standard for Martin's bench-shortening -- Mathieu Darche dressed but did not take a single shift.

"I think where people fit in the puzzle goes game to game I think at times you have to look at your lines and see what is being created, and also the challenge is to get four lines that will help us win the game tonight." -- Jacques Martin

To alleviate any concerns about fatigue, Martin has decided to break up the Moore-Lapierre-Moen trio and go with two energy lines instead of defined third and fourth units.

"I think that when you're looking at the big picture and looking at this series, I think that is what the intentions are," Martin said when asked about avoiding fatigue.

Kostitsyn and Pouliot are two of the skaters Montreal need to produce more offense, as there hasn't been much beyond Cammalleri and Brian Gionta. The Canadiens have had three players score goals in this series (Cammalleri has 3, Gionta has 2 and Moore has 1), while the Pittsburgh Penguins have had nine different players find the back of the net.

Pouliot still is searching for his first postseason goal, and Kostitsyn scored all three of his in the same contest -- but that was eight games ago.

"I think in the long run and to make a long playoff push -- I would guess if you look at most teams that win championships, they get production throughout the lineup," Cammalleri said. "It is nice to get, but at the same time, it might sound cliché but we're on a one-game basis in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I don't care who scores tonight. If Brian (Gionta) scores all five tonight -- let's just get the win." 

The moves come at a critical juncture for the Canadiens. They trail the defending Stanley Cup champions 2-1 in this series, with Game 4 at Bell Centre.

Montreal was in the same situation in the previous round against the Washington Capitals -- the Canadiens trailed 2-1, lost Game 4 at home and then rallied to win the final three contests in an epic upset.

Despite past precedent, that is not a situation they want to put themselves in again.

"The odds are the odds and you'll still show up and do the job, but you don't want to be set back 3-1 two series in a row," Cammalleri said.

Added Moen: "Obviously that is our focus tonight. We don't want to go down 3-1 and we want to tie this series up, but this team battles back. We've battled all year through adversity."

The Canadiens also have proven in the past two contests that they can corral the Pittsburgh offense -- much in the same way they were able to frustrate the Capitals' vaunted set of scorers. They were able to find enough offense to support a memorable effort from goaltender Jaroslav Halak in the first round, but the Canadiens only have six goals in the first three games of this series.

"I think if you play that defense-first mentality you can create offense with turnovers and getting the puck ahead quick," defenseman Josh Gorges said. "That's what creates your whole offense. I think the thing we need to know now is when we get the puck, don't just throw it away. Have some composure and make some plays. If they give us room, we have to skate with it and make our plays, and if not then we need to get pucks behind them like they are doing to us."

Added Cammalleri: "It doesn't feel like that urgency in our room like, 'Oh my God, we haven't scored. We haven't scored.' We just want to score one more than them. We don't care if that is one of if it is four."
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