David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty will likely start the season on the same line.
The Montreal Canadiens lines for the 2013-14 season are starting to take shape as training camp rolls on.
In their first scrimmage of the year, Coach Michel Therrien offered a look at what lines might be rolled out on October 1 (via NHL.com). The 14 cuts made on September 16, which included roster-hopeful Louis Leblanc, confirmed these possible line combinations.
Here's a prediction of the strength and weakness of each Montreal Canadiens line for the 2013-14 season.
Daniel Briere could start the season on Montreal's top unit.
Predicted line: Max Pacioretty—David Desharnais—Daniel Briere
If these three do end up getting to play together, scoring goals will be their strength.
Pacioretty has led the Canadiens in scoring each of the past two seasons, and should do so again in 2013-14. Desharnais will be looking to rebound from a poor showing last season, while Briere wants to quiet his critics who say he has nothing left in the tank.
The trio played together in Montreal's second preseason game, with Pacioretty scoring the game's prettiest goal, at least according to Pat Hickey of The Montreal Gazette.
Montreal will be counting on heavy offensive production from these three this season.
Chemistry is often something that takes time to develop amongst linemates. A couple of preseason games playing against half of an NHL roster just isn't enough time for a new line to gel.
They will need some time. That’s why we are playing those guys together. They scored a nice goal. But before I make a real judgement about that combination, they need time. We’re going to give them time.
Look for the new trio to have their ups and downs in October before rounding into shape after a few games together.
Brian Gionta's health is a big question mark on the second line.
Predicted line: Rene Bourque—Tomas Plekanec—Brian Gionta
Strength: Shut-down ability.
Coach Michel Therrien will surely run this combination out against the opponents' top scoring line each night.
Each is an above-average defensive forward and the trio should be able to frustrate the league's most dangerous offensive lines. They'll even chip in offensively now and again as well.
Weakness: They're fragile.
The only problem with predicting this trio for the upcoming season is that both Bourque and Gionta are bound to be frequent visitors to the trainer's room.
Gionta missed most of the 2011-12 season with a torn biceps. He then re-injured that same arm in the 2013 playoffs and required offseason surgery. He remains a question mark for opening night.
Bourque has also had issues staying on the ice, missing eight games in 2011-12 and 21 last season.
On paper, this line could be a real asset with their abilities to provide stellar defense while also contributing offensively. They'll have to stay healthy in order to do so.
What can Lars Eller do to improve on a great 2013 season?
Predicted line: Alex Galchenyuk—Lars Eller—Brendan Gallagher
The kid line can skate.
At 24, Eller is the senior of the three, while Gallagher is just 21 and Galchenyuk won't turn 20 until February. Their legs are fresh and it shows in their skating.
If Therrien keeps these three together, their speed should wreck havoc for opposing defenders. Having to respect their ability to beat them wide should create more space in the middle as well.
On paper it might be the third line, but the Habs will be counting on the core of their youth to provide second-line scoring in 2013-14.
Defense is something that takes a while to learn at the NHL level, and these youngsters haven't completely caught on yet.
All three possess the talent and smarts to be a good defensive line, and Michel Therrien is likely preaching defense to them throughout training camp. Look for them to make great strides in their own end this season.
If they don't, they won't be together for long.
Brandon Prust might be pushed to the fourth line when Montreal is healthy.
Predicted line: Travis Moen/George Parros—Ryan White—Brandon Prust
Parros is still recovering from offseason rotator cuff surgery and might not be ready for the start of the season. Moen will likely fill his spot until he's ready to drop the gloves on a nightly basis.
Prust will likely serve as a jack-of-all-trades type player for the Habs this season. He'll be moved around from line to line, filling in for injuries and stealing shifts from those having an off night.
Weakness: Skill level
Let's face it—these three don't exactly possess top-end talent. They have an important role to play in protecting Montreal's small, skilled forwards. In the 2013 playoffs, Ottawa showed Montreal could be pushed around. The Canadiens lack of physicality was a key to their postseason collapse last year.
Providing a little intimidation will be vital to Montreal's long-term success. Just don't expect these three to fill the back of the net with goals.