Alex Galchenyuk gets his chance on Montreal Canadiens top line

Alex Galchenyuk gets his chance on Montreal Canadiens top line

Main pic: Montreal Canadiens’ Jeff Petry (26), bottom, celebrates with teammate Alex Galchenyuk (27) after scoring against the Detroit Red Wings during third period NHL hockey action in Montreal on Oct. 17, 2015. Fans who have clamoured for Alex Galchenyuk to be put on the Montreal Canadiens top line have got their wish. The 21-year-old who was drafted third overall in 2012 skated between top-scorer Max Pacioretty and skilled rookie Sven Andrighetto at practice Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes.

Galchenyuk gets his chance on Canadiens top line; Semin assigned to AHL.

BROSSARD, Que. — Fans who have clamoured for Alex Galchenyuk to be put on the Montreal Canadiens top line have got their wish.

The 21-year-old who was drafted third overall in 2012 skated between top-scorer Max Pacioretty and skilled rookie Sven Andrighetto at practice Tuesday.

The new line will be tested Wednesday night against the visiting Boston Bruins.

“Both of those guys are quick and it’ll be my job to create space for them and get the puck to them when they’re at top speed,” said Galchenyuk. “I know it’s always a story and stuff, but this time around I’ll try not to think too much, just relax and play my game and not put extra pressure on myself.”

The unit played briefly together in the third period of a 3-2 loss in Carolina on Saturday.

A second defeat in a row often leads to changes, moreso when the team is enduring a rash of injuries.

The Canadiens are missing three right wingers — Brendon Gallagher (broken hand) and Devante Smith-Pelley (lower body) are injured, while the unproductive Alex Semin cleared waivers and was assigned to the St. John’s IceCaps of the American Hockey League.

They are also without centre Torrey Mitchell (lower body) and goalie Carey Price (undisclosed).

There has been a run of call-ups in the last two weeks, with Andrighetto, goalie Dustin Tokarski and forwards Christian Thomas and Daniel Carr all seeing NHL action.

After spending most of his first three seasons on left wing, Galchenyuk was moved to centre in a bid to establish the skilled playmaker at what is seen as his natural position. His usual linemate was Lars Eller, with Semin or whoever else was handy on the right side.

After so-so early results, the line got hot of late. Galchenyuk has four goals and two assists in his last six games. Coach Michel Therrien then wanted to see how he would do on the top unit with Pacioretty.

It will likely mean facing the opposing team’s top checkers and first defence pairs.

“We hope it goes well,” said Therrien. “He’s playing well and we want to see if he can keep it going.”

Pacioretty is confident it can work.

“It’s not going well for our team offensively right now and that’s when they mix things up,” said Pacioretty, the team captain. “I think Alex has made the next step. This might be it now.”

The speedy Andrighetto, 22, has three goals in seven games since he was called up from St. John’s. His strong play may have convinced Canadiens management he was ready to be an NHL regular and that they could ship out Semin, who had a goal and three assists in 15 games and was a healthy scratch for the last five.

The Canadiens took a chance when they signed Semin, who has been bought out by Carolina, to a one year $1.2 million contract.

While it didn’t work out, Therrien said it bought time for prospects like Andrighetto to get extra seasoning in the AHL. He hopes Semin works on lifting his game to “another level.”

“We play a game that has a lot of pace,” the coach said. “The pace of his game was not at our standard.”

Eller is now on the second line with Tomas Plekanec and Paul Byron.

He said goaltender Mike Condon will make a sixth straight start against Boston and Tokarski will play Thursday night in Detroit.

Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press

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