Canadiens Forward Galchenyuk Enduring New Playoff Role on the Fourth Line

Lace ’em up and just play.

Like Montreal Canadiens coach Claude Julien said after Monday’s practice: “It’s not who you play with, it’s how you play.”

By moving forward Alex Galchenyuk to the fourth line, the Canadiens anticipate employing a more balanced offensive attack against the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.

Still projected to develop into a top-line center, Galchenyuk played on the checking line during Saturday’s regular-season finale. He remained with the unit for practices Monday and Tuesday.

The 23-year-old is, for the most part, taking a professional approach by not publicly criticizing the move.

“I won’t think about it,” he said after Monday’s workout. “We’ve got Game 1 coming up and everybody’s got to contribute. Me, personally, I can’t wait to get it going.”

The inconsistent Canadiens failed to qualify for the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs. Now, as Atlantic Division champions, the revived club handed Julien an opportunity to devise a postseason game plan to stretch out the Rangers’ defense.

Lines are set

By placing Galchenyuk with grinders Steve Ott and Andreas Martinsen, the Canadiens will deploy striking ability from all four lines. The combination of captain Max Pacioretty-Phillip Danault-Alexander Radulov is projected to open the series on the top line, with Paul Byron-Tomas Plekanec-Brendan Gallagher on the second line and Dwight King-Andrew Shaw-Artturi Lehkonen on the third unit.

Galchenyuk was initially moved to the fourth line for the regular-season finale against the Detroit Red Wings. He delivered the game-winning overtime goal, his fifth of the season. The sample study is small but intriguing, Julien said.

“I think I’ve got better balance and depth as far as scoring is concerned,” Julien was quoted as saying. “Hopefully, (Galchenyuk) can give us the same kind of game he gave us in Detroit. He was an offensive threat.

“Right now, we’re not worried about ourselves individually. We’re worried about how we can help the team. That’s what you’ve got to do in the playoffs.”

Canadiens need scoring depth

The third overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, Galchenyuk failed to ensure his skillset with Michel Therrien. The Canadiens’ former coach mostly used him on the wings. Finally playing up to his ability late last season, Galchenyuk reached the 30-goal milestone. But he failed to take the next step.

Galchenyuk opened this season at center, his natural position, but Julien’s experiment lasted about a month. Concerns with inconsistent performances and a lack of defensive effort, at times, forced Julien’s move. After missing 25 midseason games because of injury, Galchenyuk ended up collecting 17 goals among 44 points in 61 games. Against the Rangers, he likely will continue to see time during man-advantage situations.

“(Galchenyuk) is a huge part of this team and he knows that, whether he’s going to plug in different situations or be a threat on the power play,” Pacioretty told reporters Monday. “Things change quickly, especially in this city during the playoffs.”

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