Shower juggles Canadiens lines, defense pairings

The most significant change was the decision to break the Suzuki-Caufield-Toffoli line, which had been the top trio during the playoffs.

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When the Canadiens looked at their schedule to start the season, they probably thought there was a good chance of keeping the boat afloat until No. 1 goalkeeper Carey Price solved the issues that led to him entering the NHL player assistance program. / NHLPA.


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Fresh from a trip to the Stanley Cup final, the Canadiens would play nine of their first 11 games against teams that failed to make the playoffs last season.

But as Canadians prepare to host the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday (7 pm, TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) They are 0-4 and three of those losses were to the have-nots, including an embarrassing road loss to the Buffalo Sabers, who haven’t been in the playoffs since 2011.

General manager Marc Bergevin, who made a rare guest appearance at a post-practice press conference Wednesday to discuss the trade and assure people that he is not the reason he does not have a contract extension, said that the results could be attributed to NHL parity. Commissioner Gary Bettman envisioned the introduction of the salary cap.


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But Bergevin and head coach Dominique Ducharme said the Canadiens have talented players who are not reaching their potential.

Ducharme’s preseason goal was to score on each of his four lines, but Montreal has managed just three goals in four games.

“We have a clicking line,” said Ducharme, who paused and added, “More or less.”

That tepid endorsement went to the trio of Jonathan Drouin, Christian Dvorak and Josh Anderson. Drouin has scored two of Montreal’s three goals and that was the only line that remained intact in Wednesday’s practice when Ducharme juggled his offensive lines and defensive peers.

The most significant change was the decision to break the line of Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield and Tyler Toffoli, who had been Montreal’s top line during the playoff race. Newcomer Mike Hoffman and Brendan Gallagher will join Suzuki on the top line, while fearless Mathieu Perreault will center Toffoli and Caufield.


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The big surprise was that there was no place for Joël Armia. It was a bonus when Jake Evans returned after missing a game with an upper body injury and crossed the fourth row with Cédric Paquette and Artturi Lehkonen.

Ducharme said there were players who were working hard to make individual plays, but the key to turning things around is getting back to team play, which was so successful during the postseason.

Brett Kulak, who was one of the few players who showed signs of competition during Tuesday’s 5-0 loss to San Jose, will join Jeff Petry in the best defensive pair. The other couples have Alexander Romanov with David Savard and Ben Chiarot with Chris Wideman.

Joel Edmundson, who started the season on injured reserve, is healthy but his return has been delayed because his father is battling cancer. He has gone home to Manitoba.

There was talk of a leadership void and Bergevin said he was considering a role for Captain Shea Weber, who is in Kelowna, BC, rehabilitating a series of injuries. Bergevin said Weber does not require surgery, but said the veteran will definitely not play this season.

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