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Rusnak: Coach Therrien tests potential line combinations

Jessica Rusnak, TSN Radio 690
9/12/2013 7:25:43 PM
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Thursday was the first time the Montreal Canadiens hit the ice together this season, and already Habs coach Michel Therrien is testing out some potential line combinations.

The players took part in a 40 minute scrimmage, where newly acquired Daniel Briere was playing on the wing alongside David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty. Briere, who spent most of his career as a centreman, mentioned last week that he doesn't mind playing on the wing if need be. Pacioretty and Desharnais have had great chemistry playing together in the past, even dating back to their Hamilton Bulldogs days. However, last season the duo weren't able to find the type of success they've shown in the past.

Desharnais, despite his small 5'7 frame, has been able to prove over the years that he belongs in the NHL. The 2011-12 season was when Desharnais really made a name for himself, scoring 16 goals and adding 44 assists in 81 games. His line with Pacioretty and Erik Cole quickly became the top line on the team. His performance that year is what led Habs general manager Marc Bergevin to sign him to a four-year contract extension worth $14 million last season.

After underperforming last year, Desharnais hopes to put the struggles behind and start fresh this year.

"We want him to be at the net, we want him to be first on the puck, we want him to skate, and that is how he will be successful and he knows it," coach Therrien said.

Another line combination Therrien was watching closely was Rene Bourque, Tomas Plekanec and rookie Christian Thomas. The Canadiens traded Danny Kristo to the New York Rangers this summer to acquire Thomas. He's the son of former NHL player Steve Thomas, and so far he has impressed a number of people. With Brian Gionta questionable for the season-opener on October 1 with a bicep injury, there is a good possibility that Thomas might be the one replacing him. The fact that he was placed on a line with veteran players like Plekanec and Bourque is a good indication that the organization has high hopes for the 21-year-old. Thomas spent last season playing for the Connecticut Whale of the AHL and was called up for one game; ironically against the Canadiens at the Bell Centre.

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