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

Teams continue to struggle with players in COVID protocol but the NHL says the show must go on.

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2021 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Montreal Canadiens @ Tampa Bay Lightning

How to watch

Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Lightning region: Bally Sports Sun
Streaming: ESPN+, NHL Live, RDS Direct, TSN Direct, Hulu

The last time the Canadiens laced up their skates was on December 16 against the Philadelphia Flyers. They came away with the win that night with a 3-2 shootout victory but before they had a chance to try to build on the win, games started getting postponed and the league ended up shutting things down due to a numerous amount of players across the league going into NHL COVID-19 protocol.

Games are scheduled to start going ahead again on December 28, which brings us to our second matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning after an 11-day break.

The Canadiens were back on the ice in Brossard for practice on Monday. Missing from practice was Jake Allen, Ben Chiarot, Jeff Petry, Joel Edmundson, and Chris Wideman who, along with goaltending coach Eric Raymond, were all added to the COVID-19 protocol list. That brings the current tally for the Habs up to 10 players and coaches in protocol.

With Allen and pretty much all defencemen out, Cayden Primeau and defenceman Corey Schueneman were recalled from the Laval Rocket. And in an attempt to drag this season out, the NHL re-introduced the good ol’ taxi squad. Added to the Canadiens squad are Brandon Baddock, Gianni Fairbrother, Cam Hillis, and Michael McNiven.

Tale of the Tape

Canadiens Statistics Lightning
Canadiens Statistics Lightning
7-21-3 Record 20-6-4
48.5% (21st) Scoring-chances-for % 50.4% (17th)
2.13 (31st) Goals per game 3.20 (10th)
3.52 (29th) Goals against per game 2.60 (7th)
12.5% (31st) PP% 18.7% (18th)
71.6% (29th) PK% 79.1% (21st)
0-1-0 H2H Record (19-20) 1-0-0

Tampa didn’t have as long a break as Montreal. Their last outing before the shutdown was on December 21 against the Vegas Golden Knights where they came out on top with a 4-3 victory.

The Lightning won’t be without their own COVID issues. They’ll also be short their starting goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy and backup Brian Elliott. Along with the goalies joining coach Jon Cooper in COVID-19 protocol, defencemen Mikhail Sergachev and Andrej Sustr, forwards Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Anthony Cirelli, and assistant coach Rob Zettler will also be keeping them company. Joining their taxi squad will be Syracuse Crunch’s defencemen Andrej Sustr and Darren Raddysh.

But, they’re lucky enough to still have their leading goal-scorer, Steven Stamkos (14G, 16A) so they’ve got that going for them.

The Habs also still have their leading goal-scorer, Nick Suzuki (6G, 12A). Technically, Josh Anderson is the leading goal-scorer but let’s not go there.

The last time these two teams met on December 7, it was a close contest but Tampa sealed the deal with a 3-2 win. They’re holding onto first place in the Atlantic Division but the Toronto Maple Leafs are close on their heels, sitting just two points behind them. Predictions for these two teams are on totally different ends of the spectrum: Montreal will win the draft lottery and Tampa will win the Cup.

This has been a tough season for the Canadiens where everything that could go wrong has gone wrong and continues to go wrong. When there is a tiny glimmer of hope, it’s quickly yanked away. Anderson dared to speak out that the team must do better, followed it up with an amazing game to back up his words, and was rewarded with an injury that will have him sitting on the sidelines for 6-8 weeks (fine, I went there). Artturi Lehkonen continued to do his thing, finally started to find the back of the net, and got thrown into COVID protocol.

At this point in the season, with COVID wreaking havoc on yet another season, where teams are at a point of struggling to get enough players available to even play a game makes you wonder just how long the NHL will let the season continue.