Montreal Canadiens Mathieu Dandenault gets upended by Ottawa Senators Christoph Schubert in Montreal on April 10, 2006. (CP/Ian Barrett)
Dandenault was moved back on defence for a game Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs after a stint at forward following his Nov. 15 return from a thigh injury.
He was reunited with Bouillion, who made his season debut Nov. 22 after missing training camp and the first 19 games of the season following off-season knee surgery.
The two were a solid defence pair at both ends of the ice late last season and into the playoffs.
"It feels like my season hasn't really started yet," said Dandenault, who was injured only four games into the season. "But at least I had training camp.
"Francis only skated twice in the summer, so it's like he's going through his training camp now. But he's playing well for a guy who has hardly played this year."
With Bouillon out, the Canadiens had only second-year blue-liner Mark Streit in reserve. After bringing back veteran Patrick Traverse on waivers, then sending him to the minors, they dealt centre Mike Ribeiro to the Dallas Stars for veteran Janne Niinimaa.
Streit and Niinimaa saw regular action when both Bouillon and Dandenault were out, but their return left Montreal with eight healthy defencemen.
Dandenault, who played forward often during his nine seasons with Detroit before signing a four-year deal as a free agent with Montreal ahead of the 2005-06 season, has played himself back into shape mostly on the fourth line.
Bouillon has been slowly regaining his form on the third defence pair, but now coach Guy Carbonneau feels they are strong enough to play together again. Streit and Niinimaa were both healthy scratches on Saturday night, while winger Aaron Downey was to return to the lineup.
"They fit together well," Carbonneau said. "They're great friends and they talk a lot together.
"Francis has been back a couple of weeks, so I don't see a big adjustment for them."
The six-foot, 215-pound Dandenault and the stocky five-foot-eight, 200-pound Bouillon use strong skating and puckhandling to balance what they give away in size.
"Francis is a tremendous player," Dandenault said. "It's tough to go around him on the left side, so there are a lot of pucks to recover and move up to create something on offence."
Bouillon, who was captain of the Granby Predateurs when that now-defunct team won the Memorial Cup in 1996, beat the odds by earning an NHL job despite his size in the years before the 2004-05 lockout. But he may be even more effective now.
Last season, when he had three goals and 19 assists in 67 games, he was among Montreal's most consistent defencemen.
"It's tough because it's the first time I missed training camp," said Bouillon. "I skated by myself for a month - that was my training camp.
"I just want to get back to where I was last year with Mathieu."
Their return should boost a defence that has mostly been strong this season.
Sheldon Souray, with his cannon of a point shot, has been hitting the mark with nine goals while playing with steady veteran Craig Rivet.
The skilled but understated Andrei Markov has been solid at both ends, while his partner, the six-foot-four, 240-pound Mike Komisarek, has improved each year since he joined the club in 2002, one year after he was drafted seventh overall.
Note - The Leafs also planned to make a change on defence, bringing in Brendan Bell, who sat out the last six games, in place of Wade Belak.