Over the past two weeks, the Habs have dropped some big games and have appeared to be a weak contender for first place in the East, and an even weaker contender for a Stanley Cup championship run. Losses to the Ducks, Kings, two losses to the Lightning, as well as a poor showing against the Ottawa Senators, have undressed the Canadiens and exposed some troubling deficiencies in their ability to score goals.
Blame the system, the coach, blame certain players. Regardless, the Montreal Canadiens have 12 games left in the regular season, which is 12 opportunities to play a complete game and practice the grit and determination that Habs have been adopting as their win-or-lose identity on this runway into the playoff skies. At this stage in the season, there's not a lot to do except sit back for the ride, and hope this thing stays together. Hope. It is an unfortunate factor: standing in place of confidence, hope is a poor imitator, and on it's own, hope cannot accomplish much, unless it is galvanized and changed into something real.
Although the Habs lost last night to the Lightning, they played some of their most inspired hockey in the final 30 minutes of the game after Brandon Prust and Brendan Gallagher stepped up to spark their team. They ended the game with a slight majority share of puck possession, 50.4 CF%, and almost managed to erase yet another poor first period performance, which are often kept clean by Carey Price, but even the best goalie in the league and perhaps the league's most valuable player could not pick up the slack for some of the glaring defensive gaffs made last night.
The Panthers are in the heat of a playoff race that sees them now 6 points out, with 13 games left to play. The Habs will be facing a team that is in a do-or-die scenario, closer to "die" with each game lost. The Panthers have been on a good run of 5-3-2 over their last 10, and 3-1-0 over their past 4 with the single loss coming at the hands of the New York Rangers on Saturday night.
The Habs will be without Brian Flynn tonight after he took a stick to face early in the game last night. Manny Malholtra will likely be penciled in to replace Flynn. Any last minute changes will be updated closer to game time.
The puck drops at 7:30PM EST.
In Canada (French): RDS
|Tomas Plekanec||P.A. Parenteau|
|Alex Galchenyuk||David Desharnais||Brendan Gallagher|
|Lars Eller||Jacob de la Rose||Devante Smith-Pelly|
|Brandon Prust||Manny Malholtra||Dale Weise|
|Andrei Markov||P.K. Subban|
|Tom Gilbert||Jeff Petry|
|Alexei Emelin||Greg Pateryn|
Scratched: Mike Weaver, Sergei Gonchar
Injuries: Torrey Mitchell (upper body), Nathan Beaulieu (flu), Brian Flynn (upper body)
|Jonathan Huberdeau||Aleksander Barkov||Jaromir Jagr|
|Jussi Jokinen||Nick Bjugstad||Brad Boyes|
|Brandon Pirri||Vincent Trocheck||Jimmy Hayes|
|Derek MacKenzie||Dave Bolland||Scottie Upshall|
|Brian Campbell||Aaron Ekblad|
|Willie Mitchell||Erik Gudbranson|
|Dmitry Kulikov||Steven Kampfer|
Scratched: Shawn Thorton, Tomas Kopecky, Alex Petrovic
Injuries: Roberto Luongo (shoulder), Al Montya (groin)
Check out the enemy over at Litter Box Cats.