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

Suddenly streaking Montreal looks to stay hot versus Florida.

NHL: DEC 29 Canadiens at Panthers Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Montreal Canadiens vs. Florida Panthers

How to watch

Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In Canadiens: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Panthers region: Bally Sports Florida

In an odd twist of events, the Montreal Canadiens (19-23-3), who have majorly struggled all season long, are heading into Thursday’s contest against Florida on a mini two-game winning streak, hoping to extend it to three.

Tale of the Tape

Canadiens Statistics Panthers
Canadiens Statistics Panthers
19-23-3 Record 21-20-5
44.4% (28th) Scoring-chances-for % 55.3% (3rd)
2.58 (29th) Goals per game 3.28 (11th)
3.62 (27th) Goals against per game 3.41 (23rd)
15.9% (31st) PP% 22.2% (15th)
74.8% (23rd) PK% 75.4% (21st)
0-1-0 H2H Record 1-0-0

After a weekend in New York, the Canadiens were able to escape with a victory against the New York Rangers, a 2-1 win. Phenom Cole Caufield, one of the sole bright spots on the season, scored his team-leading 26th goal to seal the victory midway through the third. They then travelled back home to face a surging Winnipeg Jets team at the Bell Centre on Tuesday night on Caufield’s bobblehead night, and the team came out strong. Despite falling behind on an early second period goal by Jets forward Kyle Connor, the team came roaring back, led by Evgenii Dadonov’s pair.

The 21-year-old Justin Barron also had a memorable night, potting two helpers for his first multi-point game as a member of the Canadiens. It was a special night for the entire Barron family, as Justin faced off against his older brother, Morgan, a forward for Winnipeg, in the tilt. Their parents, Gerard and Jenny, flew out from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to take in the game.

Goaltender Samuel Montembeault, who has taken over as starting goaltender as regular Jake Allen continues to recover from injury, backstopped Montreal for his seventh straight game. The win on Tuesday night tied his career high, at eight, set last season.

The Canadiens did receive some not-so-good news on Wednesday. The team, which has not only struggled to win this season, but also struggled to stay healthy, will now be without Jake Evans for eight to 10 weeks, Joel Armia will be out indefinitely. Jonathan Drouin, who’s been playing much better of late, was also out in their last game.

Then the final blow, was that 2022 first overall pick Juraj Slafkovský, who’s been held off the scoresheet the last 15 games before missing the team’s last game, is expected to miss up to three months with a lower-body injury, all but cutting his rookie season short.

The Canadiens called up forwards Rem Pitlick and Rafael Harvey-Pinard from their AHL affiliate Laval Rocket, and Jesse Ylönen has been playing great as a replacement player, but it’s still hard to imagine the team moving forward with such an inexperienced roster long term.

This young Habs squad will host a Florida Panthers team that has recorded at least a point in their last three games, having won two in a row before dropping their last contest 5-4 in overtime to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov is currently on a six-game point streak (3G, 4A) and is leading the team out of it’s early-season funk, something he’s done the last several years since earning the ‘C’, taking over from former captain Derek MacKenzie on September 17, 2018.

Their big off-season acquisition, Matthew Tkachuk, has also been on a tear, leading his team in goals (22) and points (56) through his first 43 games playing in Sunrise. His stellar play helped him become Florida’s representative at his home rink in this year’s NHL All-Star Game. Prior to Tuesday’s overtime loss, the 25-year-old was on a seven-game point streak of his own (5G, 8A).

While the Canadiens are playing solely for pride and the development of their (growing number of) young players, the Panthers are reigning President’s Trophy champions, and fighting desperately for a playoff spot. They’re currently four points back of eighth-place Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Habs and Panthers met right before the new year, when Florida dismantled Montreal 7-2, led by a Barkov hat trick and his five points, and Tkachuk’s two-goal, four-point night.

Despite Montreal coming in on back-to-back wins, the hope is that this young team can work together to string together three wins in a row, something they haven't done since November 8 to 12, when they beat the Detroit Red Wings, Vancouver Canucks, and Penguins, all in the same week.

Can the Canadiens tame the Cats of South Florida? We’ll find out at the rink.