Des­lau­ri­ers do­ing his job as an en­forcer

Montreal Gazette - - CITY - ph­[email protected]­media.com twit­ter.com/zababes1

Why is Ni­co­las Des­lau­ri­ers on the Cana­di­ens’ roster? This is a pop­u­lar ques­tion on Twit­ter, but the an­swer was there for all to see Thurs­day as Des­lau­ri­ers played his part in the Cana­di­ens’ 5-2 win over the Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors at Cana­dian Tire Cen­tre. Des­lau­ri­ers was a healthy scratch Tues­day, when the Cana­di­ens won the first half of their home-and-away se­ries against the Sen­a­tors. A sec­ond-pe­riod out­burst pro­pelled Mon­treal to a 5-2 win. They won most of the bat­tles and out­hit the Sen­a­tors 33-20. There was some frus­tra­tion on the part of the Sen­a­tors dur­ing the third pe­riod and head coach Claude Julien was con­cerned that Ot­tawa might take some lib­er­ties with Mon­treal’s star play­ers when the Sens re­turned home for the re­match. That’s why Thurs­day’s game started with Des­lau­ri­ers on a line with Jonathan Drouin and Max Domi, the team’s lead­ing scor­ers. Was Julien try­ing to send a mes­sage? “The mes­sage was that if you want to go af­ter our star play­ers,” you have to deal with Des­lau­ri­ers, said Julien. “I never told him to (fight), but I wanted (the Sen­a­tors) to know that he was there for pro­tec­tion. When things like that hap­pen, you deal with it and we dealt with it.” As it was, Des­lau­ri­ers’ ser­vices as an en­forcer weren’t needed. Ot­tawa did play a more phys­i­cal game on Thurs­day — the hits were 37-36 in favour of the Cana­di­ens — but there were only four penal­ties in the game and Des­lau­ri­ers had more shots on goal (three) than hits (one). “We knew they might try to play a chippy lit­tle game; they tried it the last 10 min­utes at the Bell Cen­tre,” said Des­lau­ri­ers. “I was happy to play. We have lot of depth on our team and as a line we didn’t play well against San Jose (a 3-1 loss last Sun­day), so some­body had to sit down and think it over and that was me. I wasn’t mad. We had a great game, the team played well. When you get back in the lineup, you just want to have chem­istry with the other two guys on your line and that’s what we did tonight. “I felt good tonight and this is the kind of game I want to play. I knew they would try to go af­ter our star play­ers (and) I want them to do that be­cause it gives me a fo­cus.” A hockey team has a va­ri­ety of skills. You want your fourth line to play enough min­utes to take

We knew they (the Sen­a­tors) might try to play a chippy lit­tle game; they tried it the last 10 min­utes at the Bell Cen­tre. I was happy to play.

the pres­sure off the other lines and, if things go well, noth­ing bad hap­pens when they’re on the ice. Each of the play­ers on the fourth line Thurs­day had some­thing to con­trib­ute. Kenny Agostino, who was called up from Laval Nov. 6, has an of­fen­sive skill set that has earned him time on the sec­ond power-play unit. Michael Cha­put, who was called up from Laval two weeks later, earns ex­tra min­utes as a penalty killer and he’s some­one you want in the face­off cir­cle for a key draw. Among the Cana­di­ens who reg­u­larly take draws, Cha­put leads the team in face­off per­cent­age with a suc­cess rate of 60 per cent. Des­lau­ri­ers had a ca­reer-high 10 goals last sea­son, but his big­gest as­set is his mus­cle, even when it’s sim­ply a threat. The Cana­di­ens had a chance to get a good night’s sleep af­ter the win in Ot­tawa. It was the first game in a three-game road trip and nor­mally the team would board a char­ter flight af­ter the match. But their next game is Sun­day in Chicago (6 p.m., SN, SN1, RDS, TSN 690 Ra­dio) and the Cana­di­ens took a flight from Ot­tawa on Fri­day. De­fence­man Xavier Ouel­let headed back to Mon­treal. He was placed on waivers Fri­day to make room on the roster for Noah Juulsen, who is re­turn­ing from a fa­cial frac­ture. Juulsen could re­turn in Chicago or Tues­day in Min­nesota. If Ouel­let clears waivers Satur­day, he’ll re­port to Laval.

JANA CHYTILOVA/FREESTYLE PHO­TOG­Ra­PHY/GETTY IM­AGES

Af­ter be­ing a healthy scratch Tues­day against the Sen­a­tors, Cana­di­ens for­ward Ni­co­las Des­lau­ri­ers re­turned to the lineup Thurs­day in Ot­tawa for their vic­tory over Cody Ceci, Craig An­der­son and the rest of the Sens at Cana­dian Tire Cen­tre.

Chicago PAT HICKEY

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