MONTREAL — The Montreal Canadiens' offense is on fire. The Boston Bruins are hoping wholesale line changes ignite a spark of their own as they get set to clash with their long-time rivals on Monday night at the Bell Centre.
Coming off a 4-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs a night earlier and with a tilt against the Montreal looming, Bruins coach Claude Julien re-arranged his forward corps on Sunday in an effort to jumpstart an offense that's averaging just 2.2 goals in six games thus far in December.
David Backes was bumped up to the top line alongside center Patrice Bergeron and left wing Brad Marchand in place of David Pastrnak, who found himself with David Krejci and Tim Schaller. Danton Heinen, called up ahead of Saturday's game, skated with Ryan Spooner in the middle and Austin Czarnik and Jimmy Hayes alternating on the right side.
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“I think sometimes the changes can create some excitement,” Julien told reporters after practice Sunday afternoon. “It's not the first time, probably won't be the last time, that we've changed. This is just more of a whole overhaul is what you'd call it, versus just changing one or two. Hopefully we'll get what we're looking for.”
The Bruins rank in the bottom third of the NHL in goals for, with just 67 on the season. They've scored more than three goals just twice in their past seven games, winning only one of those. The power play well has also run dry this month, with just one goal on 15 opportunities.
But it's not for a lack of effort. Boston has tossed at least 30 shots on goal in nine straight games.
“Offensive frustration is warranted at this point,” Backes told the Boston Globe. “We just haven't done a good enough job scoring goals.”
The Canadiens, meanwhile, are clicking offensively, scoring at least four goals in three of their last four games. This despite their forward depth taking a hit with long-term injuries to centers Alex Galchenyuk and David Desharnais.
Montreal exploded for six goals in the first period en route to a 10-1 thrashing of the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night. Max Pacioretty, whose goal-scoring struggles were a storyline for the better part of the first two months of the season, scored four goals to take over the team lead. And center Tomas Plekanec, elevated to the top line due to the injuries, recorded four assists and has looked better of late in a season of offensive struggles.
Against Colorado, nine of the 10 goals were at even strength and every line contributed, including fourth liner Brian Flynn connecting for his first two goals of the season.
“When we roll four lines and we skate, I keep saying this, but it's really hard to defend,” Pacioretty said after the game. “Sometimes teams get a break from speed when the third or fourth line goes out there but not when you play against us. We have four lines that can skate, three sets of D that can skate. When we make it hard on defensemen and teams early, it's really hard for them to catch up, and pretty much every game we've won has been because of that.”
It's the third meeting of the season between the Canadiens and Bruins, and the final time Boston will visit Montreal this regular season. The Canadiens won the first two meetings.