The Montreal Canadiens’ six-game home-stand comes to an end tonight with the Florida Panthers in town, with the Habs hoping to take a winning streak on the road as the regular season winds down.
It’s the first of six consecutive divisional match-ups to end the season for the Habs, who will play the Panthers again just days from now on Monday. With no games remaining against teams in a playoff position, the Habs have an opportunity to enter the post-season with considerable momentum.
A win tonight could clinch a playoff spot for the Canadiens, who now seem to be headed for a first-round meeting with the New York Rangers. That is, if they can successfully hold off the Ottawa Senators for another week.
How to watch
Puck drop: 7:30 PM EDT / 4:30 PM PDT
In Canada: Sportsnet East (English), RDS (French)
In the United States: FS-F
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Gamecentre Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|52.39||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||50.78|
|1.19||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.83|
A far cry from last year’s Atlantic Division winning team are the Florida Panthers, who have stumbled their way to a record of just over .500 this season. Now almost certainly set to miss the playoffs, the Cats can still have a big impact on first-round match-ups with a pair of games against the Habs and one to come against the Bruins.
Of course, it is important to keep in mind that the Panthers were without star forward Jonathan Huberdeau for the majority of the season, as the Quebec-native missed 51 games to injury. Huberdeau has recorded 23 points in the 25 games he has played this season, including a 4-point effort against the Blackhawks last week, demonstrating his importance to the club.
With Huberdeau in the line-up, along with a slew of other young talents including Jonathan Marchessault - who has had a breakout year in Florida - there is little doubt that the Panthers can score goals on any given night. They have not, however, done it with enough consistency to compete for a playoff berth this season.
The Panthers do, in fact, boast the NHL’s top penalty-killing unit, operating at a success rate of 85.7%. That could cause trouble for a Habs’ power-play that has been shaky in recent weeks.
Of concern for the Panthers heading into this game will be their goaltending situation. James Reimer left Tuesday’s game with an undisclosed injury, while the team has already been without Roberto Luongo since the beginning of the month. That would leave Reto Berra as the Panthers’ third option, though Luongo may return in time for tonight’s game.
These teams last met back at the end of December, and much has changed for both clubs in the time since. It was the Canadiens emerging with an overtime victory on that occasion - a result the team wouldn’t mind repeating with a road trip ahead.