Two days after getting two not-very-well-earned points in the standings, the Montreal Canadiens are in sunny Florida to take on the Panthers tonight.
The Habs were 3-1 winners against the Thrashers on Tuesday despite being out-shot 41-23. Carey Price picked up his 29th win of the season in an outstanding effort, allowing his team to secure the victory despite their poor play.
Florida is on the other end of that scale, coming off a 2-1 loss to the Hurricanes in a game where they out-shot the opposition 42-22.
The Habs will be looking to move up in the standings while the Panthers, who are all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, will look to turn a bad stretch around.
Tonight will be the fourth and final game between these two teams. The Habs have won two out of three meetings so far.
The Canadiens have 75 points in the standings, a 34-23-7 record, are three points behind the Capitals, five ahead of the Rangers—who have played one more game than Montreal—and six ahead of the Hurricanes. A Habs win coupled with a Capitals loss to the Blues tonight would put Montreal only one point behind Washington for fifth overall.
The Panthers, on the other hand, have lost two straight games and are 4-9-2 in their last 15. They have 59 points in the standings, and are 10 points behind the eighth overall Hurricanes.
Needless to say, a win tonight would go a long way towards keeping their faint playoff hopes alive.
Look for Carey Price to get his 57th start of the season for the Habs while trying to secure a career-high 30th win of the season.
The goaltending picture is a little murkier for the Panthers, who have seen perennial starter Tomas Vokoun lose eight out of his last 11 starts. As such, there is a chance that backup Scott Clemmensen will get the call.
Scoring and Special Teams
The Habs' Achilles Heel continues to be their offense where they have only been able to manage a 23rd overall 2.6 goals per game. That being said, Montreal is a respectable 10th overall in goals-against with 2.5 per game, has the eighth-best power play at 19.4 percent and the eighth-best penalty kill at 83.6 percent.
Florida, too, has an anemic offense averaging a 26th overall 2.5 goals per game in addition to their 29th-best 13.6 percent power play. Couple that with the Habs' strong PK, and the Panthers shouldn't be scoring on too many man-advantages tonight.
The Panthers are much more respectable in the goals-against department with a 13th overall 2.7 per game to go along with their outstanding third overall PP, at 85.6 percent.
Roster Changes and Injuries
Neither team is short of injured players with the Habs still missing Andrei Markov, Josh Gorges, Mathieu Darche and Jaroslav Spacek. The good news on the injury front for Montreal is that Spacek's knee injury is not that bad. With minor surgery to "clean it up," he should be out for four to six weeks.
This means that he could be back for the start of the playoffs, which would be a welcome boon for Montreal.
With no word yet on lineup changes, there is a chance that Yannick Weber could be back on the ice after being a healthy scratch in favour of Paul Mara. However, given Jacques Martin's habit of keeping winning lineups intact, I wouldn't be surprised to see Weber sitting for another game.
The Panthers continue to be without the services of Byron Bitz, Rostislav Olesz, Jack Skille, Shawn Matthias, Ryan Carter and Evgeny Dadonov—all on the injury reserve.
Game time is at 7:30 PM.