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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Pregame Preview: Canadiens at Lightning (Game #77)

Canadiens Vs Lightning 
Match Up:

The Canadiens (43-26-7) are in Tampa Bay to face the Lightning (41-25-9) Tuesday night in what might be their most important match before the post-season. The game starts at 7:30 and airs on RDS and TSN-Habs.

This is the fourth and final regular season game between the Habs and Bolts, although the two teams are primed to meet in the first round of the playoffs. The three previous meetings have all gone to overtime with the teams deadlocked 1-1 at the end of 60 minutes each time. The Lightning have taken 2 of 3 wins so far, Nate Thompson scored both Tampa goals including the OT winner the last time these teams met.

What to Watch:

Since they've been united, David Desharnais, Max Pacioretty and Thomas Vanek have been on fire. The trio has combined for 13 goals and 27 points in their last 7 games. Vanek leads the way with 6 goals and 10 points over that span.

Ryan Callahan has 9 points in 13 games since joining the Lightning at the deadline. His 3-game point streak was snapped in Detroit on Sunday, but he had 3 goals and an assist leading up to that. Steven Stamkos has played 13 games since returning from injury, and while it took him until his fourth game back to find the back of the net, he's picked up 9 goals and 13 points in his last 10.

What's at Stake:

The Canadiens and Lightning are separated by just two points in the standing and the Bolts can make up the difference with their game in hand. Tuesday's game won't guarantee the winner a second place finish in the Atlantic division, but it will definitely give that team a big boost heading into the final stretch. On top of that, a Habs win would clinch a playoff berth an extend their season best win streak to 6 games.

Who's Out:

Tomas Plekanec returns to action Tuesday night after missing Saturday's game for personal reasons. Alexei Emelin also returned to Montreal briefly but is expected to play against the Lightning. Dale Weise (wrist), Travis Moen (concussion), Brandon Prust (upper boday) and Josh Gorges (hand) are still out for the Canadiens.

The Lightning are healthy heading into Tuesday's game.

What Else:

Even though these teams have faced off 3 times already this season, the Canadiens will be taking on a much different Lightning team than they've seen so far. Steven Stamkos will be on the ice for the first time to face the Habs this year, and Ryan Callahan will battle the Canadiens for the first time in a Lightning uniform.

Of course, the Bolts will be without Martin St. Louis, who was traded for Callahan at the deadline. St. Louis had 40 points against the Canadiens in 49 games, Stamkos has 8 goals and 14 points in 19 games versus the Habs while Callahan has 7 goals and 11 points in 23 games.

The Question Mark:

We want to hear from you, what's been the best and worst surprises of this season for the Habs?

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.

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