NEW YORK -- Dale Weise is trying his best to treat his latest run on the Montreal Canadiens' top line as if playing with Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty is the same as playing with the grinders he usually has on his line.
"It doesn't really change for me which line I play on; I play the same way," Weise told NHL.com prior to Montreal's 1-0 win against the New York Rangers on Thursday. "I try to be first in on pucks, win battles. I think I do a good job on the wall in our own zone, try to get the puck up to those guys with speed, get to the front of the net, try to get some scrambles and do the best we can there."
Weise nods in agreement when it's brought up to him that playing on the top line is obviously different from playing in the bottom-six group of forwards, but the more he tells himself nothing has changed about his role with the Canadiens, the better he thinks he plays.
So far his mental approach is working; the Canadiens appear happy with Weise's play on the top line, and he has the approval of Pacioretty, who has found that Weise's skill set is more impressive than many think.
"You look around the League and a lot of top lines have a player like him because they're so effective at retrieving pucks, playing physical with a net-front presence," Pacioretty said. "But at the same time he's able to make some plays. He's got a very underrated skill set. He's a great passer with a good shot. He's added a lot to our line, and I really enjoy playing with him."
Montreal coach Michel Therrien put Weise with Plekanec and Pacioretty for the game against the New York Islanders on Jan. 17. The line combined for three goals, including one from Weise, and four assists. The Canadiens won 6-4.
The line was shut out against the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars, but still finished with an even rating despite going head-to-head against players like James Neal, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin.
They had better chances against the Rangers and wound up with the game-winning goal. Pacioretty scored with a wrist shot from the top of the right circle while Weise and Plekanec were driving the net.
Weise played a season-high 17:43 against the Rangers and finished with an assist and four shots on goal.
"A guy like Dale Weise, first of all he's got size, he's got speed, and when he's on top of his game, he's gotta make sure he's physical," Therrien said. "He's been doing that lately, and we've gotta make sure he maintains that level of intensity."
Weise said the big change for him is in the offensive zone. He wants to be a safety valve for Plekanec and Pacioretty, so he finds himself playing higher in the zone, particularly when he's on the ice against the opposition's best forwards like Neal, Seguin and Benn.
"I have to be a little smarter, a little higher as the third man where if you're playing against some other guys maybe I take more chances offensively," Weise said. "The top guys are so good they can create offense so quick, so I have to make sure I'm in a good spot so they don't have odd man rushes."
Pacioretty appreciates Weise's defensive mindset, particularly since it hasn't come at the expense of what he does best: Pressure the puck-carrier on the forecheck and battle on the boards to win pucks back.
"The great thing about a player like him is he knows what makes him successful and he sticks to playing that way," Pacioretty said. "He's got a great skill set, but we always know what he's going to do with the puck because he keeps it simple. When you play with a linemate, there is no confusion and it's easy to have chemistry with a guy like that."
Weise doesn't know how long he'll continue playing on the top line, but he feels as long as he doesn't change too much about his game, he'll be an effective linemate for Plekanec and Pacioretty, or for whoever Therrien chooses to put him with.
"I feel comfortable regardless of what line I play on, but it just does a lot for my confidence and feel you can just do so much more when you play with people who can make plays," Weise said. "Playing with [Plekanec and Pacioretty] gives me confidence, but I think I've shown throughout the year I can play on any line."