Forward lines and defense pairings
Pacioretty – Desharnais – Radulov
Shaw – Mitchell – Gallagher
Lehkonen – Plekanec – Byron
Carr – Danault – Flynn
Emelin – Weber
Markov – Petry
Barberio – Pateryn
Zach Redmond, Alex Galchenyuk
Charles Hudon (sternum), Nathan Beaulieu (upper body)
On December 3, 2015, the Montreal Canadiens hosted the Washington Capitals at the Bell Centre. Coming into the game, Montreal sat atop the NHL standings with a record of 19-4-3 for 41 points in 26 games. Michel Therrien reunited David Desharnais Max Pacioretty on the Habs top line for the first time in the season.
Montreal lost the game 3-2 to the Capitals. The Canadiens would win just two games the rest of the month: 3-1 over the Senators on December 12 and a 4-3 shootout decision over Tampa Bay on December 28th. The Habs lost 11 times.
By the end of December, the Canadiens had fallen to 11th place over with 45 points in 39 games played, trailing the league-leading Capitals by 13 points. As we know, the slide would continue.
In game 26 of the Canadiens season of the current campaign, once again David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty would wind up on the first line (for the first time this season.) Desharnais left the game, not to return, after awkwardly attempting his first bodycheck of the season on Blues defenceman Jay Boumeester. Desharnais was credited with his first hit of the year but suffered a lower-body injury on the play.
Desharnais finished the game without a point and without a shot on goal, going just 22 per cent in the faceoff circle. On the first line. Playing with a red hot Alexander Radulov and Max Pacioretty.
With the Canadiens already weakened down the middle due to the injury to Alex Galchenyuk, it was time for Tomas Plekanec to step up. Plekanec responded with one of his best games of the season recording a goal and an assist to earn the third star of the game. Paul Byron also had a two-point night.
Giving up a two-goal lead in the third period is not the mark of a championship team. I don’t buy the line that the Canadiens ran out of gas in the third. As far as western road trips go, the schedule-makers were kind to the Habs with five games spread out over 11 days. Going 0-for on the power-play, a lack of depth and mediocre goaltending hurt the Canadiens on this night.
Looking ahead, the Habs need help at centre, but the prospects sick bay is full. Charles Hudon is out indefinitely and Nikita Scherbak is a week or two away. Michael McCarron is the closest to returning, listed day-to-day and practicing in a non-contact jersey.
Marc Bergevin could recall Jacob De La Rose if he wants a centre. Otherwise, Sven Andrighetto or Chris Terry could be on their way to Montreal. That could necessitate a shift to centre by Artturi Lehkonen or Andrew Shaw. Lehkonen was seen working on faceoffs in practice on Tuesday.
▲ Tomas Plekanec, Artturi Lehkonen, Greg Pateryn, Alexei Emelin, Paul Byron
▼ Brian Flynn, Phillip Danault, Andrew Shaw, David Desharnais