Demons eye Saints solution to identity crisis

Melbourne are out to re-establish their identity as an AFL premiership threat in the crunch clash with St Kilda.

The Demons (6-4) were humbled by rebuilding West Coast last week, with coach Simon Goodwin admitting his side's contest work and ability to defend the ground were "really poor".

Those failings have given Goodwin's troops clear focus areas heading into Sunday's meeting with the Saints at the MCG.

"They're things that we have been really strong on in the past," the 2021 premiership coach said.

"So we've certainly got some things that we really need to go back and make sure we've got a really clear identity about how we play.

"As we evolve our team and try to be the team that we want to become by the end of the year, we've got to make sure the pillars that we've got to be strong in are there for everyone to see."

Goodwin is expecting an "arm wrestle" and "defensive war" against a St Kilda side that has been hard to score against this season, giving up an average of 76.7 points a game (ranked sixth).

The Saints also struggle to kick big tallies themselves, averaging just 72.2 points a game (ranked 15th).

Goodwin said the midfield battle will be crucial after star trio Christian Petracca, Jack Viney and Clayton Oliver lowered their colours against West Coast.

"What I do know is we've got a really proud midfield group and they'll be looking to respond, but it's an area that we'll need to," Goodwin said.

Demons captain Max Gawn also faces an important battle with Saints ruckman Rowan Marshall.

"Max will pit his strengths against Row and try to nullify as much of his, but he's been in outstanding form for them," Goodwin said.

"He's a high clearance player, high hit-outs, gets back to support his defence. We'll have a plan for all those things."

Melbourne's star defender Jake Lever has undergone knee surgery and will be sidelined for up to six weeks, replaced by Adam Tomlinson for the St Kilda clash.

Key forward Jacob van Rooyen has been cleared to return from concussion and was picked ahead of Ben Brown.

Former Saint Jack Billings and Blake Howes were dropped, with Ed Langdon back after a week out for personal reasons and Lachie Hunter in for his first game of the season.

Saints coach Ross Lyon wielded the axe after his side slipped to 3-7 with a loss to Fremantle last week, dropping Mattaes Phillipou, Ben Paton and Zak Jones.

Liam Stocker, Seb Ross and Jack Higgins all return for the Saints, who desperately need a win to reignite their faint finals hopes.