Changes coming for Penguins-Canadiens game
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Both the Montreal Canadiens (1-1-1) and the Pittsburgh Penguins (2-1-0) are contemplating changes to their roster and line combinations as they prepared to play Saturday at Bell Centre in Montreal.
The Penguins, coming off a 4-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday, could have a different look against the Canadiens as coach Mike Sullivan stuck with the changes he made in the second period against the Knights.
That meant Sidney Crosby was between Bryan Rust and Jake Guentzel, and Derick Brassard was with Patric Hornqvist and Dominik Simon at practice on Friday. The Penguins' top three lines are rounded out with Evgeni Malkin with Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel, who had a natural hat trick against the Golden Knights.
"Rusty brings an element of speed to that line," Sullivan told the team's website. "He can create a lot of loose pucks and turnovers with his speed. It allows that line to get the puck back in certain situations. It's just a different dynamic."
Penguins No. 1 goaltender Matt Murray practiced with the team again Friday after missing the game against the Golden Knights because of a concussion. He will travel with the team to Montreal and could dress against the Canadiens.
Changes could also be on the way for the Canadiens, who are coming off a tepid performance in their 3-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings in their home opener Thursday.
Veteran center Tomas Plekanec could play his first game of the season for Montreal given the firepower the Penguins present with Crosby and Malkin at center. If Plekanec plays, it will be the 999th game of his NHL career.
Plekanec is a crafty defender who has a history of getting under Crosby's skin. The Canadiens also need to improve in the faceoff circle. The Canadiens won just 23 of 60 faceoffs in the loss to the Kings.
Plekanec practiced on a line with Charles Hudon and Andrew Shaw on Friday. Rookie Matthew Peca could come out of the lineup to allow Plekanec's entry.
"We for sure had some trouble in the faceoff circle," Canadiens coach Claude Julien told Montrealcanadiens.com. "It's one of the areas we need to improve on. Tomas can help us. For me today, it was to put him in that position to see how the line would look. I reserve the right to make my decision (Saturday), but it's a possibility."
"It's never fun to watch games from the press gallery," Plekanec, who was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the trade deadline last spring and returned to the Canadiens as a free agent in the summer, told Montrealcanadiens.com "There are a lot of things you can't control as a player, so I just tried to work on the things I can control."
The Canadiens' offense often misfired and looked uncoordinated against the Kings. Julien made another move on Friday to try to get forward Jonathan Drouin going. He has no points and just five shots through three games, though three of them came against the Kings.
Julien moved Drouin on to a line with Max Domi and Artturi Lehkonen on Friday.
"I'm not producing the way I'd like to, but I think there will be periods like that every season," Drouin told the team's website. "I have to continue what I've been doing. I have no doubt I'll break out of it."
Updated October 12, 2018