MONTREAL — Canadiens coach Michel Therrien found one line that works. Now he's hoping his latest shuffling of the remaining cards gets the other three going.
While the top line of left winger Paul Byron, center Alex Galchenyuk and right winger Alexander Radulov remained intact, Therrien tinkered with the rest of his forward units. The most notable change came in between wingers Max Pacioretty and Andrew Shaw, with Torrey Mitchell getting the nod.
It's the latest in an effort to get Pacioretty going. The Canadiens captain recorded 13 points in 19 games so far this season, but only four have been goals and have been largely spread out. It's an unusual stretch for the left wing, who typically scores in bunches. Mitchell will be the fifth pivot he's skated with this year.
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“I'm excited to play with Torrey; he's one of the guys I haven't played with yet,” Pacioretty said after practice on Monday. “He's got great energy and he's a great skater so we'll see if we can put something together (against Ottawa).
“I'm trying to do whatever I can to help the team win,” he added. “Every night it's going to be different, and I'm excited for a new challenge.”
The other changes saw Phillip Danault move to Tomas Plekanec's left wing while David Desharnais, who had been with Pacioretty and Shaw of late, will center the fourth line with rookie Charles Hudon and 27-year-old Chris Terry.
Montreal's top unit leads the way offensively, in large part due to the chemistry between Radulov and Galchenyuk, as well as their individual talents. Together with the speedy and versatile Byron, the trio accounted for six goals in five games together, while getting scored upon just once.
The 22-year-old Galchenyuk leads the Canadiens (14-3-2) with 19 points on the season.
“He's capable of scoring goals, he's got great hands, gifted hands,” Therrien said. “He works extremely hard after practice on his release. Players who have success, even if you're gifted offensively, it doesn't just show up just like that. This kid works extremely hard and that's the reason he's got the results.”
Senators coach Guy Boucher is hoping his team's offense starts to find its way soon. The team scored two goals or fewer — excluding shootout tallies — in 12 straight games, going 6-5-1 during that stretch. It hasn't been for a lack of effort, however, with at least 30 shots on goal in eight of those outings, including 40 in Saturday's loss to Florida.
“When I looked at our game (against the Panthers), we attempted 83 shots on net, 40 shots, we had 26 scoring chances,” he said told reporters before the team headed to Montreal. “You can't get more, you can't get better quality; it's just from there, we've got to continue improving our work around the net.
“We just need to bear down around the net, especially on those rebounds,” he continued. “Got to make sure we lift the puck up. A lot of them were on pads in the last games. Just have to improve our finishing, that's clear.”
That includes on the power play, which has converted just twice on 32 opportunities in November. At the other end, however, the penalty kill has been tough to beat, denying all 24 opposing power plays this month. In fact, the Senators (10-7-1) haven't allowed a power-play goal against since Oct. 22.
Ottawa could get some help on Tuesday night as Mike Hoffman could return after missing the past two games with a groin injury. While the winger was held off the scoresheet in his previous five games, his potential return would be a welcome boost, with the club also forced to play without Bobby Ryan, who has been sidelined since Nov. 8 after suffering an injury against the Nashville Predators.
Boucher was “hopeful” on Hoffman drawing back in but was less certain on Ryan's availability for the game.
Craig Anderson will get the start in goal. The Senators sent Andrew Hammond down to the AHL after clearing waivers, which means former Canadiens netminder Mike Condon will serve as the back-up against his former team for the second time this season after doing so with the Pittsburgh Penguins back in October.