MONTREAL — The defensive pairings in practice seemed notable. Andrej Meszaros was with Zdeno Chara. Dougie Hamilton was with Corey Potter. That seemed as though it might signal Claude Julien’s intentions for Wednesday’s game against Montreal.
But the Bruins coach cautioned after practice, “Don’t read into that, guys.”
Julien said he didn’t make the pairings for practice, instead letting the players find their own partners for the workout. He was, however, interested in seeing Meszaros work on the right side, a side that he has held down for much of his career, though not this season.
“Right now we know he can play left,” Julien said. “The toughest part is for a guy to play on his off side, so we’ve got him playing right in practice right now just to make sure, because he hasn’t played the right side this year.
“He’s played for about 10 years on the right side, but this year he hadn’t played there.
“So we’re just giving him an opportunity here to get comfortable there as well because we’re going to need him to play both sides.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean that Meszaros will be playing with Chara Wednesday, as he did Sunday night in Florida. It also doesn’t mean that he won’t be back there.
“I didn’t really put so much weight on the pairing more than I looked at the individual play, and I thought he moved the puck well,” Julien said. “There’s still some areas where we felt he’s got to get used to playing our type of game, and we’re going to keep working with him that way.
“But he moves the puck well, he’s got a good shot. You saw him on the power play. He did a pretty good job there as well. As we mentioned, he’s brought a little bit of experience to our lineup.”
Julien will continue to shuffle his lineup on defense, now with eight blue liners on the roster. Hamilton was the healthy scratch Sunday, and when asked if he would return to the lineup against Montreal, Julien said, “That’s a good question, OK, and I’ll leave it at that. Because I’ll tell you what, I haven’t made my decision yet.”
It is unlikely that Hamilton will be the odd man out for many games.
“Dougie’s not going to sit long,” said Julien. “Dougie has played good hockey and he’s been good for us, so Dougie is not going to be the guy that is going to be singled out here. Dougie is going to be back in our lineup, and it’s just a matter of me making those tough decisions.
“We hadn’t lost a game and we put Mez in, we played fairly well. Now we won again, doesn’t mean my lineup’s not going to change. So I’ve got to make some tough decisions here as we move forward.
“But the good part is we’ve got games in a short span of time, so there’s lots of room for everybody to get in there.”
Paille is down
Daniel Paille was the only member of the Bruins not on the ice for Tuesday afternoon’s practice. The forward left Sunday’s game just 3:06 in, after he took a hit from Florida’s Ed Jovanovski. He did not return.
Paille did travel with the team to Montreal, but Julien said he will not play Wednesday and is unlikely to play Thursday against the Coyotes. He did call Paille “a very good possibility” for Saturday’s game against the Hurricanes at TD Garden.
“Like I said the other day, it’s very minimal, but they deemed it a concussion, so he’s going through the protocol right now,” Julien said.
Paille has dealt with concussions before, most recently in December when he returned to Boston after feeling symptomatic on a flight from Toronto to Calgary. He missed seven games, returning after the Christmas break.
The Bruins have lost their last five games against the Canadiens, including both this season, a trend they’d like to reverse Wednesday. Asked why they have struggled against Montreal, Julien said, “I can’t answer that, but I can tell you one thing: I don’t think we’ve played well against them. Have they given us trouble or have we given ourselves trouble? That’s the thing we’ve got to figure out here. The game in Boston, we just weren’t playing well at all, so hopefully tomorrow we’ll paint a different picture, and if we play the way we’ve played lately, I think it’s going to be a great game. So we’ve just got to focus on that.” . . . The Bruins are facing Montreal for the first time since the Canadiens acquired Bruins killer Thomas Vanek. Vanek has 30 goals and 31 assists for 61 points in 53 games against the Bruins. “The last four or five years, to me, Boston has been one of the better teams in the league,” Vanek said. “You want to play your best against the best teams, but again, I think sometimes just the numbers are the numbers. I can’t really tell you why that is, but I can tell you that it’s a big game, it’s a great team, and you want to play in big games.”