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Canadiens Game Day: Don t call Danault trio a shutdown line, Julien says

Canadiens Game Day: Don t call Danault trio a shutdown line, Julien says
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It happened last Saturday in Winnipeg when Danault, Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Tatar kept Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele off the scoresheet.

There was an encore performance Tuesday at the Bell Centre when Nikita Kucherov failed to add to his NHL-leading points total, Brayden Point was also held pointless and Steven Stamkos had a lone goal.

But, as the Danault line was preparing for a three-peat Thursday against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN-690 Radio), head coach Claude Julien was careful not to call the trio a shutdown line.

Montreal Canadiens’ Phillip Danault protects the puck while absorbing a check from New York Islanders’ Mathew Barzal during first period in Montreal on March 21, 2019. John Mahoney / Montreal Gazette

“We don’t send them out there and tell them not to let the other team score,” said Julien. “We do want them to outplay whatever line they’re matched up against and if you look at their numbers, they’ve done a good of providing offence.”

Danault has a career-high 52 points, including 12 goals, and a plus-20 rating. Tatar also reached a career high this season with 25 goals and 58 points and he leads the team at plus-23, while Gallagher has a career-high 33 goals.

“We feel that if we can control the puck and create chances in their end, they won’t have a chance to score at our end,” said Danault.

Thursday’s game presents two challenges.

For starters, the Canadiens are the visitors and they don’t get the last line change. That means Julien will have more difficulty getting the matchups he wants.

“We’ll be asking all four lines to play well at both end of the ice,” said Julien. “We’ll try to get the matchups we want, but we’re not going to be changing every 10 seconds and breaking up the rhythm of the game.”

The other problem is Ovechkin, who has created problems for the Canadiens throughout his career.  He has 31 goals and 53 points in 47 career games against Montreal.

“No matter who’s on the ice, they have to know where (Ovechkin) is at all times,” said Julien.

The Canadiens are coming off wins in Winnipeg and at home against Tampa Bay, and are in another must-win situation as they attempt to catch Carolina or Columbus for one of the two wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference.

“We know we’ll need some help, but we just have to concentrate on what we have to do,” said Julien.

The Canadiens will continue to use four lines and Julien said that has been one of the keys to the team’s success this season.

“We’ve been able to keep guys fresh, not like last year when we had guys like Gally and (Paul) Byron playing 20 and 23 minutes in some games,” said Julien.

In keeping with that theme, the team did not practice Wednesday and Thursday’s morning skate was over in 25 minutes.

“It was just enough to get the legs moving,” said defenceman Jeff Petry.

While the Canadiens caught a bit of a break Tuesday when Tampa Bay started minor-league goaltender Eddie Pasquale, the Capitals will go with 2016 Vézina Trophy winner Braden Holtby. Carey Price will, of course, start for Montreal.

Liveblog: Canadiens at Washington
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