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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Pregame Preview: Canadiens vs Lightning (Game #55)

Canadiens Vs Lightning

Match Up:

The Canadiens (29-20-5) will hope to keep up their winning ways Saturday afternoon when they host the Lightning (31-18-5) at the Bell Centre. Saturday's matinee starts at 1:00 and can be seen on RDS and CBC.

This is the third of four meetings between the Habs and Bolts this year. So far, each team has managed a 2-1 shootout victory in their opponent's barn. Lars Eller scored the only shootout goal on December 28, the last time these teams faced off.

What to Watch:

Max Pacioretty scored his team best 23rd goal of the season against the Bruins on Thursday. Despite missing 9 games already this season, Pacioretty is well on pace to top his career high of 33 goals, set in the 2011-2012 campaign. With a pair of assists, Brendan Gallagher had his second consecutive 2-point night on Thursday, he picked up a goal and an assist against Carolina as well.

Laval native Martin St. Louis leads the Lightning in points with 53 in 54 games. St. Louis has picked up at least a point in 11 of his last 12 games, with 8 goals and 7 assists over that span. Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman is having a career season, with 11 goals and 34 points his already topped his previous career highs, and he's matched his career best assist mark with 23. Despite their outstanding performances this season, both St. Louis and Hedman were left off their respective Olympic rosters.

What's at Stake:

The Canadiens are looking to extend a 2-game win streak Saturday afternoon while the Lightning will be trying to put an end to their 2-game losing streak. Tampa Bay is just 4 points ahead of the Habs in the Atlantic division standings but perhaps more importantly, a win would vault the Canadiens ahead of the Maple Leafs prior to Toronto's 7:00 pm game against the Senators.

Who's Out:

The Habs are missing Alex Galchenyuk (hand) and Davis Drewiske (shoulder). Ryan White (upper body) has been taking part in practices and could be ready to play this weekend after missing most of January. Brandon Prust did not practice with the team Friday due to illness.

The Lightning had both their goalies suffer injuries Thursday night against the Senators. Ben Bishop was hit in the head by the skate of teammate Nikita Kucherov and left Thursday's game in the opening 2 minutes. To make matters worse, Anders Lindback may have sprained his ankle later that same came when ex-Lightning Cory Conacher collided with him. In response, the Bolts have called up Cedrick Desjardins and Kristers Gudelvskis from their AHL affiliate.

Valtteri Filppula was also injured in Thursday's game and could miss Saturday's tilt. And of course, Steven Stamkos is still recovering from a broken leg, but his return seems imminent.

What Else:

The Canadiens defense seems to have stabilized, giving up 1 goal in their last 2 outings after allowing  27 in their previous 6. They've dropped down to 9th overall in terms of goals allowed per game, one spot ahead of the Lightning. In 54 games, the Habs have allowed 132 goals to Tampa's 133. On the offensive side of the puck, the Bolts are outpacing the Habs with 154 goals for to Montreal's 132, which puts Tampa Bay 15 spots ahead of the Canadiens in goals per game.

The Question Mark:

We want to hear from you, after convincing wins against the Canes and Bruins how confident are you that the Habs can win at least one playoff round?

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

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.

4 comments:

Another loss where you see a team like Tampa play strong defense and have good size, aand you really can see how the Habs lack of size is prominent..Gionta , Bourque and Desharnais have to go.

PS Subban is nothing but a showboat, and what has happened to Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuks game.?? If they are our future this team is in trouble for years.

You got your wish, Per TSN Habs trade Brian Gionta and a first rounder next year for Ryan Callahan...HIO confirms it.

Why cant we get a player like that kid Thompson, who scored Both goals and has good size. Nah, Timins likes his American busts and small stiffs.

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