The Montreal Canadiens are approaching what most teams would consider a positive problem. Since their lineup shake up, they are 3-0. And, they are about to get Lars Eller back in the lineup.
The problem is, where does Eller fit in. Eller prefers to play center, but with Alex Galchenyuk thriving in that role along with Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais and Manny Malhotra centering the other lines, there’s no obvious place to move Eller in.
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While I say there’s no obvious place, my preference would be that he replaces Desharnais, but even for some one who is not a huge fan of his, he seems to be excelling in a role where defences aren’t keying on him. I think his game against Carolina was one of his best in a while.
Desharnais would then move to wing as you don’t want to lose Malhotra’s presence in the faceoff circle.
If Eller doesn’t mind moving to the wing, the very obvious spot is replacing Dale Weise on the line with Tomas Plekanec and Jiri Sekac. It’s basically the three stages of the same player. The veteran, the experienced youngster ready to take the next step, and the rookie.
Andrighetto is the next riddle. He had points in his first three NHL games, but was moved down to the fourth line so they can have more of a shutdown line against Carolina. That demotion seems like he is the person to exit the lineup once Eller returns, but you can’t hide the fact that he is ready for the NHL.
In fact, this would be my Canadiens lineup when Eller returns, assuming no other changes:
PACIORETTY – GALCHENYUK – GALLAGHER
ELLER – PLEKANEC – SEKAC
PARENTEAU – DESHARNAIS – ANDRIGHETTO
PRUST – MALHOTRA – WEISE
Scratched: Bournival, Tangradi
Don’t blame me if that never happens as this coaching staff has never been one to do things the way that I see them. I would also have Nathan Beaulieu playing 15 minutes a game instead of under 12, but again, that’s just me (and I’m not the only one.)
[Note: Since this article was published, Andrighetto was sent to Hamilton.]
This team is already tons better with Galchenyuk, Pacioretty, Plekanec and Desharnais spread across three lines. Eller coming back does not hurt this team, even if someone else is in Andrighetto’s place.
With the Atlantic division so close – and Detroit and Toronto refusing to lose along side pre-season favourites Montreal and Tampa Bay – the Canadiens can use another nice run but to do that they will need to rely less on Carey Price.
But if they do have a game like they did against Los Angeles, it sure feels good to know he is back there.
The Canadiens will host the Anaheim Ducks – and a pre-game ceremony for retired captain Saku Koivu – Thursday at the Bell Centre. The Canadiens have already won a game after a moving tribute. This will be a second one, although for much different reasons.
Koivu will be joined in town by his wife Hanna, his two children and his parents. They will stay in Montreal until the weekend at which point they will make their way to Minnesota to spend Christmas with Saku’s brother Mikko.