The Montreal Canadiens are shaking things up on defense — in a major way — for tonight’s game against Pittsburgh.
Alexei Emelin and Raphael “player 61” Diaz will be healthy scratches, the club announced on Wednesday. That will open the door for veteran Douglas Murray (who sat out Saturday’s 5-3 loss to Toronto) and recently-recalled Nathan Beaulieu to draw into the lineup.
Diaz will be a healthy scratch for the second game in a row, having sat out the Leafs loss after playing just 14:21 in a 5-4 OT win over Ottawa last week. The Swiss rearguard has been a pretty regular feature in the lineup this year, scoring 11 points in 46 games while averaging close to 19 minutes per night.
Emelin, who has also been a healthy scratch this season, had a rough game against Toronto over the weekend and finished with a minus-2 rating and just one hit.
This isn’t the first time Habs head coach Michel Therrien has parked one of his regulars this season in the hopes of sparking the team. He’s pulled similar moves with Daniel Briere, David Desharnais and Rene Bourque — not coincidentally, the Emelin/Diaz benchings come with Montreal having lost six of its last 10.
Update: Courtesy Sean Gentille of the Sporting News, here’s some insight into Therrien’s thoughts about his club’s defensive breakdowns…
Therrien: “The last game we played in Toronto, I thought we played a solid game, but when we do a breakdown, it’s a major breakdown.”
— Sean Gentille (@seangentille) January 22, 2014