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Therrien hints at changes to Canadiens lineup

by Arpon Basu

NEW YORK -- Montreal Canadiens coach Michel Therrien has gone through the entire Stanley Cup Playoffs refusing to answer any questions about his lineup.

In light of that, what would appear like an innocuous answer to a question Thursday could in fact be quite revealing about his intentions for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

The Rangers lead the best-of-7 series 2-0.

Therrien was asked if he planned to make any changes to his lineup following an optional morning skate, and for the first time in a long time he did not refuse to answer.

"There might be," he said.

Under normal circumstances that wouldn't mean a whole lot. And Therrien might be trying to play some mind games with his friend and current adversary, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault.

But these circumstances are far from normal for the Canadiens.

They find themselves down two games in a series for the first time in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and Therrien strongly hinted at a major change at practice Wednesday before the Canadiens left for New York.

Forward Thomas Vanek was rotating with rookie Michael Bournival on the Canadiens' fourth line, with Daniel Briere and Brandon Prust, and then Prust was the only player to take the option not to skate Thursday.

So all sorts of possibilities exist heading into Game 3, with Prust and Vanek candidates to be scratched.

Asked if Vanek will be in his lineup, that's where Therrien drew the line.

"I'm glad you tried," he said to the questioner.

The possibility of Vanek, Prust or someone else being scratched might not be the only change Therrien has in store for Game 3.

The Canadiens have reached this stage of the playoffs without having to make many major adjustments to their forward lines. There's been a tweak here or there, but nothing as drastic as what the Canadiens did at practice Wednesday.

"It probably tells you we're down 2-0," forward Brendan Gallagher said after practice at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.

Gallagher's line with David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty was the only one of the four regular forward lines that remained intact at practice Wednesday, and with no line rushes during the skate Thursday, it could be that the lines from practice will remain intact for Game 3.

If that's the case, one player who will be happy will be Dale Weise, who skated on the third line with Lars Eller and Rene Bourque.

"I think that's a great combination," Weise said. "I really like the way Lars plays and [Bourque], they're a north-south line. Lars has got some good skill, they're big bodies. They've consistently been our best line. I'm not coming in there trying to change anything if I do get the chance to play with them."

Therrien specifically mentioned the line centered by Tomas Plekanec as needing to provide more production, and all but confirmed captain Brian Gionta will move back to right wing with Plekanec and Alex Galchenyuk. Gionta and Plekanec played the majority of the regular season together, and Therrien is hoping reuniting them can light a spark under Plekanec, who has gone four games without a point.

Weise hopes to see the new combinations bring some energy to the Canadiens in what essentially is a must-win game.

"It can go either way, but I just think there's a little excitement in playing with new guys," he said. "You have a little extra jump in your step. I think that's going to be the case [in Game 3]. I really like the lines that we've got right now if they stay the way they are. Who knows what they're going to be, but I just think there's that excitement when you play with new guys."

Here are the projected lineups:


Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Brendan Gallagher

Alex Galchenyuk - Tomas Plekanec - Brian Gionta

Rene Bourque - Lars Eller - Dale Weise

Michael Bournival - Daniel Briere - Thomas Vanek

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban

Andrei Markov - Alexei Emelin

Nathan Beaulieu - Mike Weaver

Dustin Tokarski

Peter Budaj

Scratched: Brandon Prust, Douglas Murray, Travis Moen, George Parros, Ryan White, Francis Bouillon

Injured: Carey Price (knee)


Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Rick Nash

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Martin St. Louis

Benoit Pouliot - Dominic Moore - Mats Zuccarello

Daniel Carcillo - Brian Boyle - Derek Dorsett

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Anton Stralman

John Moore - Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

Cam Talbot

Scratched: Jesper Fast, J.T. Miller, Justin Falk, Raphael Diaz

Injured: Derick Brassard (upper body)

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