Despite two hard-fought post-regulation losses to the Boston Bruins and the New York Islanders, Claude Julien is still facing somewhat of a crisis of depth at the centre position following Phillip Danault’s unlucky injury against the Bruins.
For the first time all season, Jonathan Drouin lined up on the wing today in practice, but the beneficiary of Drouin’s move to the boards was not Alex Galchenyuk... but Jacob de la Rose. The chemistry between Drouin and Galchenyuk will continue as they will stay on the same line. However, they now flank de la Rose as Daniel Carr is demoted to the 4th line.
Habs lines:— Аrpon Basu (@ArponBasu) January 16, 2018
DROUIN-De La Rose-GALCHENYUK
Paul Byron’s first game at centre of the season last night was sufficient in the eyes of the coaching staff for him to stay in the middle. Max Pacioretty and Charles Hudon likewise re-assume their positions flanking Byron. The second line of Artturi Lehkonen, Tomas Plekanec, and Brendan Gallagher will also stay intact.
Having de la Rose replace Drouin down the middle rather than Galchenyuk will almost certainly raise many, many eyebrows. Regardless of where one stands on whether Galchenyuk and Drouin are natural centres or wingers, it is difficult to argue that either of the two at centre isn’t a superior to the 22-year old Swede.
It’s possible that Julien is looking for a stronger performance in the faceoff circle, or more defensive balance to that trio. Alternatively, it’s also possible that this practice was purely an experiment, and Drouin will be back in the middle come tomorrow.
If the Habs do indeed enter their next game featuring Paul Byron, Tomas Plekanec, Jacob de la Rose, and Byron Froese in the middle though, the amount of commentary surrounding their need for a number one centre will only multiply exponentially.