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

Montreal looks to end a three-game road slide in Sunrise.

NHL: Preseason-Montreal Canadiens at Toronto Maple Leafs Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens will travel 405 kilometres south overnight and hopefully a new Floridian city will prove fruitful for them as they face the Panthers on Thursday night in Sunrise.

The Canadiens (15-17-3) have dropped their last three (0-2-1) on their extended road trip, having not won since a 3-2 overtime win last Monday night at the Arizona Coyotes. The Panthers (15-16-4) haven’t played since before Christmas, and also find themselves at odds, having dropped their last three decisions as well.

Tale of the Tape

Canadiens Statistics Panthers
Canadiens Statistics Panthers
15-17-3 Record 15-16-4
44.57% (26th) Scoring-chances-for % 56.19% (3rd)
2.63 (27th) Goals per game 3.23 (13th)
3.49 (25th) Goals against per game 3.40 (23rd)
12.5% (32nd) PP% 18.6% (25th)
76.7% (21st) PK% 77.6% (19th)
1-3-0 21-22 H2H Record 3-1-0

Montreal is coming off a tough 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning Wednesday night, led by two goals from Brayden Point. The Bolts have defeated Montreal both times this season thus far, by a 9-2 margin. Canadiens rookie blue-liner Kaiden Guhle, one of the brightest spots in their lineup this year, spoiled Andrei Vasilevskiy’s shutout bid by pinging in a point shot with just over two minutes left in regulation.

The Canadiens did get a strong game from Jake Allen, who stopped 34 of 38 shots faced, but it wasn’t enough. Martin St.Louis, who played just shy of 1000 games donning the Tampa blue and black, opted for a young defence core in front of the netminder. And young indeed, with only alternate captain Joel Edmundson being a non-rookie on the blue line.

Tampa Bay has proven year after year, that they are truly a dazzling and electric (pun sort of intended) club to watch night after night. The team won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2020 and 2021, and went to the Final last year only to be dethroned by the Colorado Avalanche. And despite having to shuffle their lineup, and play against the National Hockey League salary cap, they always seem to win, currently at 21-11-1, good for third place in the Atlantic Division.

Their Floridian counterpart, the Panthers, however, have not fared so well. After trading away one of their franchise players in Jonathan Huberdeau a year removed from his 30-goal and 115-point season, along with MacKenzie Weegar, up to Calgary in exchange for Matthew Tkachuk, the Cats are not landing on their feet as quickly as a year ago.

Tkachuk has been one of the few bright spots in Florida with 15 goals and 40 points through 32 games. The Panthers have only three players with double digits in goals this season: Tkachuk, Carter Verheaghe and Sam Reinhart. However when we say that the Panthers only have three, Montreal is struggling even worse on offence, with only two players, those being Cole Caufield and captain Nick Suzuki ,with 10 or more this season thus far.

Suzuki, who started the season with such flair, has fallen off of late, only notching one goal and two assists through his last 10 games. Caufield has five goals through the same stretch, inching closer to eclipsing last season’s 23 goals. One positive to note is he got those 23 in 67 games, whereas he has 19 so far this season in just 35.

Throughout the Canadiens’ skid they have been outscored 12-7, whereas Florida has been outscored 16-6. Florida’s goaltending tandem of Sergei Bobrovsky and youngster Spencer Knight has been struggling to keep pucks out of the net, which is why they find themselves sixth in the Atlantic.

This is the first tilt for these two teams this season. Florida took three out of the four games last year, but the one game Montreal did take, many fans will remember. It was the last game of the season. Carey Price started in goal and was welcomed with a thunderous ovation at the Bell Centre, not before the Canadiens destroyed the Panthers by a whopping 10-2 margin in front of the home crowd. It also happened to be the night that young Caufield notched his first-career NHL hat trick.

Can we expect the same theatrics tomorrow night at Sunrise? The only way to know is to check it out ... at the rink.