Montreal's Thomas Vanek is part of practice juggling act
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Thomas Vanek is not the only Canadiens player who hasn't produced through two games, but he may be the most high-profile one.
So it was noticeable when Canadiens coach Michel Therrien jumbled his lines in practice Wednesday and basically dropped Vanek to the 13th forward spot, rotating in on the right side of a fourth line with Brandon Prust and Daniel Briere, Vanek's old Sabres teammate.
"Today, don't read too much," Therrien cautioned reporters at the Canadiens' practice facility in Brossard, Quebec, about analyzing the new lines. "I know you guys like to read [into] practicing and lines and that type of thing, but don't read too much."
The practice talk was the most noticeable Vanek has been through the first part of the Eastern Conference finals. The former Islander and Sabre is still tied for the Canadiens' team lead with five playoff goals, but he registered just one shot on Henrik Lundqvist through two games of this series and played just 11:41 in Game 2, when Montreal peppered Lundqvist with 41 shots.
Vanek's mercurial ways are well-known to Islanders fans down this way. He was a feast-or-famine player during his 47 games on the Island before being dealt to the Canadiens at the March 5 trade deadline for a prospect and a conditional second-round pick that became unconditional when the Canadiens made the playoffs. But the Habs have come to rely on Vanek, who produced 6-9-15 totals in 18 games after the trade, and then eight points in the first 11 playoff games.
"In the Boston series, after the first [game] people started getting on him and he had a big game where he scored a couple goals," Briere said. "That's Thomas Vanek -- he can be dangerous at any time, he can come out and hurt you and make a big play. I'm not too worried about him. He seems to get it done when you least expect it."
There is also a possibility Vanek is not 100 percent healthy. He briefly left Game 3 of the Bruins series after teammate P.K. Subban delivered a big hit on Boston's Reilly Smith and leg-whipped Vanek in the chest after the collision. Since that game, Vanek has two goals, but only seven shots on goal in six games.
But, again, he is not the only culprit. Subban pumped 18 shot attempts at goal in Game 2, nine of which were stopped by Lundqvist, and the Canadiens' most dynamic player is scoreless and a minus-3 through two games.
"Sometimes when you're losing, everybody's looking to pinpoint the problem somewhere," Briere said. "It comes with the territory when you're expected to make things happen offensively. It's not something that's going to faze [Vanek] or surprise him."
Notes & quotes:Therrien said that Dustin Tokarski will start in goal in Game 3. The 24-year-old had 27 saves in Game 2 after Carey Price was ruled out for the series.