Nathan Beaulieu and Joonas Nattinen were called up by the Montreal Canadiens yesterday. Head Coach Michel Therrien mentioned last night that both of the young players would be in the lineup tonight when the Habs face the Toronto Maple Leafs. So, what role will the pair of rookies play tonight?
Beaulieu has been up here before. Last year he played six games in a Habs sweater, and he also suited up with the big club five times earlier this year. He has combined for three points in those eleven games, and is also a plus seven.
Beaulieu is an offensive minded defenseman. He is an excellent skater and puck mover, and that is exactly what the Habs will be expecting from him tonight. Aside from P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov, no Habs defender has been consistent at getting the puck to the Canadiens speedy forwards. That is where Beaulieu steps in. He will play on the third pairing, likely with Francis Bouillon and be counted on to add speed and skill to the Canadiens defense.
My guess is he replaces Raphael Diaz, whether the Swiss defenseman is sick or not. Apparently Diaz missed practice yesterday with the flu, and if he can not play, Beaulieu simply takes his spot in the lineup. Even if Diaz is good to go, I still think he sits in favor or Beaulieu.
Why? Because, Diaz is supposed to be a puck mover that can get the puck out of the defensive zone with a nice pass, but he hasn’t done that all year.
It is pretty simple to predict where Nattinen will fit in the lineup. He is a fourth line center without a doubt. That is basically the role he played with the Hamilton Bulldogs and he will continue to do so in Montreal. Nattinen uses his size and grit to play a solid defensive game, and could be counted on to kill penalties as well.
I can see Nattinen on a line with Travis Moen and Michael Bournival. Therrien will use them frustratingly sparingly while Daniel Briere and Rene Bourque watch the other team get chance after chance on Carey Price.
Beaulieu had a Gordie Howe Hat Trick in his last game with the Bulldogs. I don’t expect that kind of a performance from either of these players, but they can fill roles and help this team defeat one of their oldest rivals tonight if used properly.