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Canadiens @ Lightning: Game preview, start time, Tale of the Tape, lines, and how to watch

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The Habs face a major test as they walk into the arena of the best team in the league.

Montreal Canadiens v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

Montreal Canadiens @ Tampa Bay Lightning

How to watch

Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In Canada: Sportsnet, Sportsnet Now (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the Lightning region: SUN
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/Rogers NHL Live

The Canadiens are doing surprisingly well on the their late-December road trip. Even after starting off with a loss to the Colorado Avalanche, they’ve rattled off three consecutive wins straddling the Christmas break. The streak began with two wins against Pacific Division clubs and carried over to a key battle with the Florida Panthers on Friday night; a fairly convincing effort versus a team chasing them in the standings, and one put forth despite not having Carey Price in goal.

Their trip through the Floridian section of the Atlantic Division continues tonight with a stop in Tampa Bay to take on the Lightning. There is no better team in the NHL right now than the one calling Amalie Arena home, suffering just two regulation losses in the month of December, and currently riding a 13-game point streak. A spectacular 29-7-2 record places them atop the NHL’s standings, with the second-place Toronto Maple Leafs six points back.

With the way they’re currently playing, the Canadiens should be looking forward to this test rather than dreading it. It’s a chance to show that they can compete with the best teams, and after a rough month of November, the desire will be strong to keep a solid December rolling.

Should they get the victory, it will secure a winning record on their six-game stint away from home. That would be a major accomplishment for the team, and one that sets up a good second half for perhaps the most surprising team in the league this season.

Tale of the Tape

Canadiens Statistic Lightning
Canadiens Statistic Lightning
20-13-5 Record 29-7-2
0-1-0 H2H Record 1-0-0
54.5% (3rd) Corsi-for pct. 53.2% (6th)
3.11 (12th) Goals per game 4.13 (1st)
3.16 (23rd) Goals against per game 2.92 (15th)
13.2% (30th) PP% 29.8% (1st)
77.2% (24th) PK% 83.2 (7th)
L-L-W-W-W Form OTL-W-W-W-W

That would require a better result than the Canadiens managed in the first meeting of the year. The play on the ice wasn’t as one-sided as the 4-1 scoreline on November 3 suggested, with shots just 36-35 in Tampa Bay’s favour. Yet the skill disparity was evident in the contest, with the Lightning capitalizing on their chances.

Montreal was quite disciplined in the game, taking just three minors to keep what was then the league’s eighth-ranked power play off the ice, and surviving while it was.

As other teams’ hot starts have cooled, the Lightning have actually improved their efficiency on the man advantage, ranking first in the league in both percentage and number of goals scored. Oddly enough, it isn’t nearly as effective at home as on the road, scoring on “just” 26% of their opportunities on their home rink compared to the top conversion rate of 34.5% away from Amalie Arena.

That home percentage is still about twice as productive as the Canadiens have managed this year, so another disciplined approach is critical tonight.

That’s only one aspect of the game that the Lightning at excelling at this year. They’re also the league’s most productive team at 5-on-5, with a full complement of stars able to find the net at any time.

Nikita Kucherov once again leads the team — and now the league — in points with 61, having one more goal in his stat line than Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen for that position. His centre, Brayden Point, is quickly becoming one the NHL’s stars and has 49 points already in just his third NHL campaign. Not bad for a third-round pick.

Without Price, it won’t be easy to contain that powerful offence enough to get a win, but the Canadiens are showing lately that they are capable of handing the Lightning a rare loss with a great all-around effort tonight.

Montreal Canadiens projected lineup

Forwards

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Tomas Tatar Phillip Danault Brendan Gallagher
Jonathan Drouin Max Domi Paul Byron
Artturi Lehkonen Jesperi Kotkaniemi Andrew Shaw
Nicolas Deslauriers Michael Chaput Kenny Agostino

Defencemen

Left Defence Right Defence
Left Defence Right Defence
Victor Mete Shea Weber
Mikey Reilly Jeff Petry
Brett Kulak Jordie Benn

Goaltenders

Goaltenders
Goaltenders
Antti Niemi
Michael McNiven

Tampa Bay Lightning projected lineup

Forwards

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Ondrej Palat Steven Stamkos Yanni Gourde
Tyler Johnson Brayden Point Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn Anthony Cirelli Mathieu Joseph
Adam Erne Cedric Paquette Ryan Callahan

Defencemen

Left Defence Right Defence
Left Defence Right Defence
Victor Hedman Dan Girardi
Ryan McDonagh Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn Mikhail Sergachev

Goaltenders

Goaltenders
Goaltenders
Andrei Vasilevskiy
Louis Domingue