Habs start Julien era vs. Jets (Feb 18, 2017)
MONTREAL -- As the work week drew to a close, the Montreal Canadiens were just getting started on theirs, and everything that was old was new again.
A few minutes after all the players and assistant coaches stepped on the ice for the team's first practice coming out of its bye week, out stepped Claude Julien, wearing a Canadiens track suit and gear for the first time since January 2006. He then got to work on putting his stamp on the team and will get a better look at what he has when Montreal (39-18-8) hosts the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday afternoon.
"It was a really strong practice coming off a break," said Max Pacioretty. "We needed to have some high tempo but try to keep it relatively short due to the fact that we play at 2 p.m. tomorrow. The message got across. We went over the drills in here and we all went out there with the right mindset."
For Pacioretty, the Julien era will begin with a new center as Alex Galchenyuk was slotted on the top line between his captain and Alexander Radulov, replacing Phillip Danault. It's been a rough go for Galchenyuk of late, who has just one goal and one assist since returning after re-aggravating a knee injury that kept him out for six weeks in December and January.
He won't be the only Canadiens pivot getting a new lease on life. Veteran center Tomas Plekanec will be anchoring the second line between Paul Byron and Brendan Gallagher. The 34-year-old is well off his offensive pace this season, with just 23 points in 58 games. He's currently mired in a seven-game point drought and has just three points in his last 15 games, two of which came in one game.
"I just want him to play good hockey," Julien said of Plekanec, whom he coached during his previous stint in Montreal. "Often, a player needs encouragement and needs to feel important."
Teams coming off the bye week haven't fared too well so far this season and those who've had theirs in February have yet to taste victory (0-5-0).
"I want energy, enthusiasm and effort," said Julien of what he expects from his players. "It's easier to correct things than to push the players."
They'll be facing a team that's in a funk of its own in the Jets (26-29-5). Winnipeg is 2-5-1 in February and sits four points out of the second wild card spot in the Western Conference, but has played more games than all the other teams.
The Jets are coming off a 4-3 overtime loss to the Penguins on Thursday night, the first of a four-game road swing that will now take the team through Eastern Canada. Despite the results against Pittsburgh, however, Winnipeg still found the positives.
"I think it was a good start for the road trip. One point is better than nothing," star rookie Patrik Laine, who scored his 27th of the season, said after the game. "I'm proud of every guy who battled out there. I think we played well, and maybe would have deserved to win."
Laine missed the Jets' last match-up against Montreal, in which the Canadiens skated away with a 7-4 win in Winnipeg in January.
That game kicked off a troublesome stretch for the Paul Maurice's troop in its own end, allowing at least three goals against in 16 of 17 games.
Carey Price will get the start for Montreal. Connor Hellebuyck has started the Jets' last four games and is expect to get the nod for Winnipeg.