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Canadiens vs. Panthers: Game preview, start time, Tale of the Tape, and how to watch

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The Canadiens and Panthers renew hostilities.

Florida Panthers v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images

Montreal Canadiens vs. Florida Panthers

How to watch

Start time: 2:00 PM EST / 11:00 AM PST
In Canada: TSN2, TSN Direct (English), RDS, RDS Direct (French)
In the Panthers region: Fox Sports Florida
Streaming: NHL.tv/NHL Live

After the way they started the game on Thursday night, it seemed like the Canadiens were once again going to lose to a team sitting outside of a playoff position. They didn’t register a shot on goal until the second half of the first period, having already given up a power-play goal by then. But the top six forwards, reinforced by the return of Brendan Gallagher, netted two quick goals to start the second frame, and that proved to be enough to knock off the Buffalo Sabres and climb above them in the standings.

Feeling fairly confident right now with five wins in their past seven games, the Habs now take on a Florida Panthers squad that has won six games in a row to claim the final seed in the Atlantic Division.

Tale of the Tape

Canadiens Statistic Panthers
Canadiens Statistic Panthers
23-22-7 Record 28-16-5
0-1-0 H2H Record 1-0-0
53.7% (3rd) Corsi-for pct. 50.2% (16th)
3.02 (17th) Goals per game 3.67 (1st)
3.10 (19th) Goals against per game 3.27 (25th)
20.0% (14th) PP% 24.5% (5th)
78.4% (23rd) PK% 78.1% (24th)
L-W-W-L-W Form W-W-W-W-W

The Canadiens were on a similar run of form the last time they played the Panthers. Montreal had won seven of its previous 10 games coming out of the Christmas break, looking at a trip through the state of Florida to end the calendar year that could have gained the Habs some separation. They scored plenty of goals in both game — a total of nine versus the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Panthers — but Carey Price, who was given the call for both games of the back-to-back, gave up one more in each game than his skaters could match. The team came away with nothing, dropping two four-point games to lose more ground in the Eastern Conference standings.

Those back-to-back losses kicked off the Habs’ second eight-game losing streak of the season, while neither the Lightning (11-2-1 dating back to the December 28 meeting) nor the Panthers (9-3-0) have looked back since those pivotal contests.

Price is probably going to pull double duty once again this Super Bowl Weekend as the Canadiens face another critical back-to-back, first against the Panthers this afternoon then against the Eastern Conference’s current first wild-card team, the Columbus Blue Jackets about 21 hours later. As improbable as their current quest to make the post-season is, it would start to approach impossibility if the gap to the teams they need to catch — who still hold games in hand — grows to double digits with just 28 games remaining.

The Panthers haven’t received the goaltending they expected when they signed Sergei Bobrovsky to a contract with an average annual price tag of $10 million in the off-season. You find him ranked 49th in save percentage among goalies getting at least 10 starts in 2019-20, with half of the netminders designated as backups by their teams sporting better stats. The good news for his team (and bad news for Montreal) is that, after being pulled midway through a game versus Buffalo on January 4, he’s had a fair run of quality play over his team’s current win streak.

As was the case in that 6-5 win versus Montreal at the end of December, the Panthers don’t require elite-level goaltending to rack up wins. They’ve scored at least four goals in each of the six consecutive wins they carry into Montreal, and have scored at least five goals nine times since the start of December.

Florida has the top offence in the NHL, at 3.67 goals scored per game. Six forwards have already netted 15, and another, Frank Vatrano, is one away from making it seven. Jonathan Huberdeau has been setting up more of those goals than anyone, with 47 assists to rank fourth in the league in that department. He’s tied for the overall lead in primary assists, as much of Florida’s offence runs through its superstar winger.

Huberdeau isn’t the only player Montreal needs to watch out for, but he’ll be the main focus. He was a major player in the scoring fest on December 29, with two goals and two assists, and the Canadiens can’t allow him to replicate that effort if they want to win this afternoon.

Montreal Canadiens projected lineup

Forwards

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Tomas Tatar Phillip Danault Brendan Gallagher
Ilya Kovalchuk Nick Suzuki Joel Armia
Artturi Lehkonen Max Domi Nick Cousins
Ryan Poehling Nate Thompson Dale Weise

Defencemen

Left Defence Right Defence
Left Defence Right Defence
Ben Chiarot Shea Weber
Brett Kulak Jeff Petry
Victor Mete Marco Scandella

Goaltenders

Goaltenders
Goaltenders
Carey Price
Charlie Lindgren

Florida Panthers projected lineup

Forwards

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Jonathan Huberdeau Aleksander Barkov Evgenii Dadonov
Brett Connolly Vincent Trocheck Noel Acciari
Frank Vatrano Dominic Toninato Mike Hoffman
Colton Sceviour Brian Boyle Denis Malgin

Defencemen

Left Defence Right Defence
Left Defence Right Defence
Michael Matheson Aaron Ekblad
Riley Stillman Anton Stralman
Keith Yandle Josh Brown

Goaltenders

Goaltenders
Goaltenders
Sergei Bobrovsky
Samuel Montembeault