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

The Habs visit a red-hot Jonathan Huberdeau to kick off the new year.

Montreal Canadiens v Florida Panthers Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

Montreal Canadiens @ Florida Panthers

How to watch

Start time: **1:00 PM EST / 10:00 AM PST**
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Hurricanes region: Bally Sports Florida
Streaming: ESPN+, NHL Live, RDS Direct, TSN Direct

The Canadiens somehow managed to get a point while playing the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday despite a lineup that would have been rejected by the league at the start of the season. The AHL players in the formation were among the better performers that night, turning the adrenaline from getting a surprise NHL start into a good 60 minutes of hockey.

While they were keen to have a repeat of that performance in their next game, a nearly fully healthy Carolina Hurricanes team proved too strong for the motley crew. It didn’t help that right before the game Jonathan Drouin was ruled out with an illness (not COVID), meaning Brandon Baddock drew into the game after spending the first part of the season on the Laval Rocket’s fourth line. During the contest, the Habs also lost Brendan Gallagher to a lower-body injury, further reducing the strength of the team for Saturday’s game.

Now the news is that Baddock has been added to the COVID list, the result of a test taken before the game started last night, so now there is concern that the Omicron variant has been introduced to the only remaining members of the organization. Right now, Baddock’s case is the only one known, so today’s game versus the Florida Panthers is still set to go ahead, but it’s entirely possible that more news will fall today. We’ll hope that, for once this season, the Habs receive a bit of good luck on the medical front and aren’t dealing with an outbreak.

Tale of the Tape

Canadiens Statistics Bruins
Canadiens Statistics Bruins
7-23-4 Record 19-11-2
48.0% (22nd) Scoring-chances-for % 53.5% (2nd)
2.12 (32nd) Goals per game 3.06 (15th)
3.62 (29th) Goals against per game 2.59 (7th)
11.0% (32nd) PP% 23.2% (9th)
71.6% (30th) PK% 80.4% (10th)
0-1-0 H2H Record (19-20) 1-0-0

As the Habs’ leprous roster continues slough pieces as the season goes on, the quality of their opponent only seems to be increasing. The Hurricanes proved a tougher for that the Lightning had to start the road trip, now the Habs end it versus a Panthers team that just defeated the Lightning 9-3 on Thursday night.

Only one team (the Colorado Avalanche) has scored more goals per game than Florida this year, as the Habs division rival has firmly established itself as one of the most dangerous teams in the league.

Leading the way is Jonathan Huberdeau. Now 28 years old, he’s on pace for his fourth consecutive point-per-game season, and this one is on pace to be his best ever, currently projected to hit 100 points for the first time in his career. Five of those points were contributed on Thursday, despite only playing 16 minutes in the blowout win. It was the second time in the month of December that he hit that mark.

The task of containing him and linemates Sam Reinhart and Anthony Duclair is going to fall to Alexander Romanov and David Savard, the Canadiens’ duo that became the top unit by default, but has done very well with that elevated responsibility. They have proven to be strong penalty-killers (minus a two-goal game from the Hurricanes’ units on Thursday), and will need to bring that play to give the Habs any hope of avoiding the same fate Tampa Bay suffered last game.

The Canadiens are due for another long break after this contest before their next one on January 12 in Boston, so they can empty the tank in their bid to prove to another top team that they’re not an easy mark. The skill will undoubtedly be in the Panthers’ favour, but the will of players who could realistically be dressing in the final NHL game they’ll ever play should at least make for a fun matinee.

Montreal Canadiens projected lineup

Forwards

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Jonathan Drouin Nick Suzuki Jesse Ylönen
Rafaël Harvey-Pinard Ryan Poehling Cole Caufield
Lukas Vejdemo Cédric Paquette Alex Belzile
Michael Pezzetta Cam Hillis

Defencemen

Left Defence Right Defence
Left Defence Right Defence
Brett Kulak David Savard
Sami Niku Kale Clague
Corey Schueneman

Goaltenders

Starter Backup
Starter Backup
Samuel Montembeault Michael McNiven

Florida Panthers projected lineup

Forwards

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Carter Verhaeghe Aleksander Barkov Maxim Mamin
Jonathan Huberdeau Sam Reinhart Anthony Duclair
Frank Vatrano Anton Lundell Mason Marchment
Ryan Lomberg Eetu Luostarinen Patric Hornqvist

Defencemen

Left Defence Right Defence
Left Defence Right Defence
MacKenzie Weegar Aaron Ekblad
Gustav Forsling Radko Gudas
Lucas Carlsson Brandon Montour

Goaltenders

Starter Backup
Starter Backup
Sergei Bobrovsky Spencer Knight