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Montreal Canadiens lines at practice: Jesperi Kotkaniemi moved to wing

No, this is not an April Fool’s joke.

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Montreal Canadiens Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens lines at practice had a few notable changes on Monday as they prepare for the final three games of their season.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi re-enters the lineup, as does Paul Byron who was wearing a regular jersey and appears to have the green light. However, Kotkaniemi has been moved to the fourth line wing with Byron on the opposite side centred by Nate Thompson.

Kotkaniemi is not new to the role on the wing. Kotkaniemi played both wings last season with Ässät in Liiga, where over 57 games, he had 10 goals and 19 assists.

While the reaction is to immediately liken this scenario to others in the past, Kotkaniemi has proven to be an effective centre and as the playoffs approach, Claude Julien realizes he needs the rookie back in the lineup and appears to like Nate Thompson and Jordan Weal down the middle at this point. Flipping Kotkaniemi and Weal provides the Canadiens with four solid lines, and a fourth line with Byron and Kotkaniemi is quite intriguing offensively.

Montreal will face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night. The Lightning will be hosted by the Ottawa Senators on Monday night.

As for another Canadiens prospect who plays centre, Ryan Poehling will arrive in Montreal late this evening, so his first NHL experience will have to wait.