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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Pregame Preview: Canadiens vs Blue Jackets (Game #71)

montreal canadiens vs columbus blue jackets nhl 
Match Up:

The Canadiens (38-25-7) are home to host the Blue Jackets (35-27-6) Thursday night at the Bell Centre. The game starts at 7:30 and can be seen on RDS and TSN-Habs.

This is the third and final meeting between the Habs and Blue Jackets with the Canadiens aiming for the season sweep. The Habs have won a pair of close games. In their 5-3 win in Montreal, Plekanec's game winner came with just over a minute left in the game. When these teams played in Columbus, the Habs earned a 3-2 shootout win, David Desharnais had the only penalty shot goal.

What to Watch:

Thomas Vanek scored his first goal as a Canadien Tuesday night, and then his second, and then his third. The hat trick was the 8th of Vanek's career, he had 4 3-goal games in 2007-2008 alone. The fourth line of Travis Moen, Dale Weise and Brandon Prust have combined for 4 goals over the past 2 games for the Habs, they played an integral role in the 6-3 win over the Avalanche on Tuesday

Despite directing 47 shots at Anton Khudobin, the Blue Jackets lost 3-1 to the Hurricanes on Tuesday, scoring their first goal with less than a minute left in the game. Former Hab James Wisniewski had 6 shots on goal Tuesday, bringing him up to 140 on the year, 6 shy of his career high for a season. With 26 goals and 51 points, 21-year old Ryan Johansen leads the BJs in scoring.

What's at Stake:

The Lightning's 5-3 win over the Maple Leafs draws the Bolts even with the Habs at 83 points and leaves the Leafs a step behind at 80 points with two more games played than Tampa and one more than the Canadiens. The race in the Atlantic division is strictly for second place, the Bruins have a 16 point cushion with the season winding down.

After missing out on the playoffs last year by virtue of a lost tiebreaker to the Minnesota Wild (both teams finished with 55 points but the Wild had 3 more regulation or overtime wins), the Blue Jackets once again find themselves tied for the final playoff spot with the end of the season looming. The team is looking for just their second playoff berth in franchise history, as well as their first postseason victory, they were swept by the Red Wings in their first trip to the playoffs.

Who's Out:

Michael Bournival (concussion) is healthy enough to play but has been sent to Hamilton on a reconditioning assignment. Josh Gorges is still out with a broken hand.

The Blue Jackets are missing rookie defenseman Ryan Murray (lower body).

What Else:

For the second straight game, the Habs welcome a Vezina trophy winner to the Bell Centre, and this time, he'll actually be between the pipes. After the Patrick Roy show swept through town on Tuesday, the Habs play host to last year's top netminder, Sergei Bobrovsky. Bob the goalie has take a bit of a step back from last season when he posted a 2.00 GAA and a .932 save percentage, this year his goals against average is up to 2.49 and his save percentage has slipped to .919.

The Question Mark:

Let us know what you think, if the Canadiens played to their their full potential, how far could they go in this year's playoffs?

Make your voice heard by leaving a comment or sending 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.

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