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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Pregame Preview: Canadiens at Panthers (Game #76)

habs_panthers_oct242011 
Match Up:

The Canadiens (42-16-7) take their 4-game winning streak into Florida where they'll do battle against the Panthers (27-39-8) Saturday night. The game is set to start at 7:00 and airs on RDS and CBC.

This is the fourth an final game between these clubs, so far, Florida has managed to get the better of the Canadiens on 2 out of 3 tries. The Cats won a pair of games in December against the Habs, but Montreal managed a 2-1 victory the last time these teams met with the help of goals by David Desharnais and Brian Gionta.

What to Watch:

The line of Desharnais, Max Pacioretty and Thomas Vanek combined for 3 goals and 3 assists in Thursday's 5-4 win over the Red Wings. Vanek led the way with three points, bringing him up to 9 points in 11 games since joining the Habs. PK Subban had a pair of assists on Thursday but was also on the ice for all 4 goals against. Through 75 games this year, PK has an even rating.

The Panthers have won just one of their last five games and were shut out twice during that span. With 35 points on the year, Scottie Upshall leads the Cats in scoring, he's 165th in the league in points. Rookie Nick Bjugstad has 14 goals and 33 points on the year. Roberto Luongo had been fairly solid in nets for the Panthers since joining the team at the trade deadline, but he was knocked out of action in Thursday's game and isn't expected to play on Saturday.

What's at Stake:

Even with the strength of 7 wins in the last 8 games the Canadiens haven't been able to get much separation over the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Habs do hold a two-point lead over the Bolts, but Tampa has a pair of games in hand. The good news for the Habs is that they hold an 11-point lead over the 4 teams fighting for a Wild Card spot, which means with time running out on the season a first round match between the Canadiens and Lightning is all but set.

Who's Out:

Tomas Plekanec returned to Montreal after Thursday's game against the Wings for personal reasons and won't play on Saturday. The fourth line of Dale Weise (wrist), Travis Moen (head) and Brandon Prust (upper body) are all out, as is Josh Gorges (hand).

Florida is without Luongo (upper body), rookie Aleksander Barkov (knee) and Tomas Kopecky (concussion). St. Jerome native, Jonathan Huberdeau (lower body), is questionable for Saturday's game.

What Else:

The Habs will play game 2of their important 4-game road trip Saturday, then they return home to play 3 of their last 4 games in the Bell Centre. After facing the Panthers they'll visit Tampa Bay to take on the Lightning on Tuesday in what could be their most important match at this point in the season. The Lightning have 9 games remaining to Montreal's 7, and they play 6 in a row at home before ending their regular season with a trip to Washington to face the Capitals.

The Question Mark:

With Plekanec absent on Saturday, Lars Eller will likely be reunited with former linemates Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk. If that trio has a strong night should they be kept together after Plekanec returns?

Let us know what you think, leave us a comment or send us a tweet with 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.

3 comments:

Difficult question there. I find that Eller is like a Plekanec in training. Good defensively, but he needs work on his offensive production to keep it consistent. I hope Eller plays well with the kids, but then the question is, where does Plekanec play? Just have to weigh the pros and cons between having Eller there or Plekanec.

Good post!

Cheers, thanks Darrin. In the end we might not get an answer to the question, I'm seeing that Briere might be between the Gallys tonight, we shall see.

I hate to say it but the Kid line is just too weak defensively. Lars Eller has the worst +/- on the team, and Galchenyuk's +/- would be the worst on the team if you were to prorate it over the 73 games the habs have played. I really hope Lars Eller will develop into the next Pleks but for now I think some people are confusing his lack of scoring with "good defensively".

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