The Habs (24-28-10) are in Sunrise, Florida, to take on the Panthers (28-20-12) Sunday. The game starts in time for the early bird special at 5:00, and airs on RDS (HD) and TSN-Habs (HD).
This is the third of four meetings with the Panthers this season. The teams have each played once in their home rink, both times Florida came away with one goal wins. The last time these teams met was New Year’s Eve, Tomas Fleischmann scored the eventual game winner into an empty net. Erik Cole scored for the Habs 11 seconds later, making the final score 3-2.
What to Watch:
This is the last game before this season’s trade deadline and with the Habs living in the Eastern basement, expect the team to try to sell off their assets before 3:00 Monday. Andrei Kostitsyn, Chris Campoli, Mathieu Darche and Travis Moen are unrestricted free agents going into next season, and while Moen is injured and Darche has been sidelined recently as well, AK and Campoli may get some extra time to showcase their talents to potential suitors.
Florida has been active already as the deadline approaches. They picked up Wojtek Wolski from the Rangers in an attempt to help provide some extra offense and shootout strength. Wolski has 249 points (92g, 158a) in 403 games including a goal in his first game as a Panther Saturday night. He is also 22 for 52 in shootouts, getting stopped by Carolina’s Cam Ward in Florida’s 3-2 shootout win over the Canes.
What’s at Stake:
The Habs are alone in last place in the East, they’re 28th overall in the league and have been outscored 10-2 in their last three games. This is where pride and professionalism must kick in to ensure that the team does not completely fall apart during the final 20 games of the season. With the Southeast Division race heating up, the Panthers have plenty to play for themselves. The Cats are tied with Winnipeg atop the division and Washington is just a point back, so don’t expect Florida to take this game lightly.
Petteri Nokelainen returned to action Friday against the Caps after missing the last 14 games. Andrei Markov (knee) was with the team in Washington but did not play, he still has not been cleared for contact. Mathieu Darche (flu) also didn’t dress Friday but could be ready to return Sunday. Brian Gionta (arm), Michael Blunden (knee) and Travis Moen (upper body) are still out.
For the Panthers Scottie Upshall (groin), Dmitry Kulikov (knee), Marco Sturm (knee), Matt Bradley (upper body/concussion) and John Madden (foot) are out, while Marcel Goc (lower body) is day-to-day.
If the Canadiens fail to make the playoffs, which looks more and more likely with each passing game, it will be the fifteenth time in the history of the NHL they don’t qualify for the postseason, dating back to 1918. Like Montreal, Florida has also missed the postseason 14 times already, but they only been in the league since 1993-94, if they manage to make the playoffs this year it will be the first time since 2000.
Be sure to tune into Montrealhockeytalk.com after the match for the Montreal Hockey Talk Post Game Show.