Saturday, December 28, 2013

Pregame Preview: Canadiens at Lightning (Game #39)

Canadiens Vs Lightning 
Match Up:

The Canadiens (22-13-3) return to action Saturday night after their extended Christmas break by facing the Lightning (23-11-3) in Tampa. The game is set to start at 7:00 and airs on RDS and CBC.

This is the second of four meetings between the Habs and Bolts this season. A late third period goal by Daniel Briere helped the Habs force overtime in their first meeting, but the Canadiens ultimately lost 2-1 in a shootout, spoiling Carey Price's 44-save performance.

What to Watch:

David Desharnais is riding a 3-game point streak going into Saturday's action, including the game winning goal in Montreal's 4-3 OT win against the Predators last Saturday. PK Subban scored his first goal of December against the Predators, just his fifth of the season. Subban still leads the Habs with 27 points through 38 games.

Valtteri Filppula has been the hottest Bolt of late with 3 goals and 5 assists in his last five games. Both Filppula and Laval native, Martin St. Louis, are riding 5-game point streaks. St. Louis has 7 points in his last 5 games, including 3 goals.

What's at Stake:

On the strength of their current 5-game winning streak, the Lightning have passed the Habs in the standings are are now second in the Atlantic Division. While the 5-game streak is impressive, the Bolts only faced one team above .500 in that span, the Detroit Red Wings. The Habs will have a chance Saturday to bringing the Lightning back down to earth and claim a share of second place in the process.

Who's Out:

Josh Gorges (lower body) should return to action Saturday night. His 167-game streak came to an end last week when he missed his first game since returning from knee surgery during the 2010-2011 season. George Parros (concussion) joined the team in Tampa and has resumed skating in practices. Davis Drewiske (shoulder) is out.

The Bolts are without their top threat, Steven Stamkos, who suffered a broken leg in November. Despite playing less than half of Tampa's 37 games, he is still third on the team in scoring.

Also missing for the Bolts are Keith Aulie (hand) and Ryan Malone (ankle) while Eric Brewer (arm) and Sami Salo (upper body) are day-to-day.

What Else:

The first goal could be extremely important in Saturday's match-up. Both the Bolts and the Habs are two difficult teams to be when they grab an early lead. Tampa has won 15 of the 17 games they've scored first in, while the Habs have 17 victories in the 20 games they've scored the first goal. On the flip-side, the Lightning have managed to overcome an early deficit 8 out of 20 times they've allowed the first goal. The Canadiens have managed to come back just 5 times in the 18 occasions they were scored on first.

The Question Mark:

What should Habs fans expect from their team between now and the Olympic break: Will the defense find their way? Are their scoring woes behind them? Will Price continue to be a dominant goalie? Will they maintain their playoff positioning?

Let us know what you think by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter or leave us a comment below.

Be sure to tune into the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show an hour before the puck drop and the Post Game Show 5 minutes after the final siren. Join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

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