Hot off the heels of their 4-3 comeback victory, the Canadiens (16-5-4) are still in sunny Florida taking on the Panthers (7-12-6) Sunday evening. The game has a rare 6:00 start and can be seen on RDS and TSN-Habs.
This is the second of three meetings between the Habs and Panthers and like Montreal’s first visit to the BB&T Center earlier this season, it follows up a match in Tampa Bay. The first time these teams met, neither scored in regulation. The Habs earned an OT win when Rene Bourque converted an Alex Galchenyuk feed to give the Canadiens a 1-0 victory.
What to Watch:
Brian Gionta has found his scoring touch recently. The Habs’ captain has 5 goals and an assists in his last six games, including the Canadiens 20 000th goal, scored Tuesday against the Islanders. Gionta is just one point shy of matching his totals from an injury-shortened 2011-2012 season. Last year he had 8 goals and 7 assists in 31 games.
Brendan Gallagher picked up the game winner against the Lightning Saturday, his seventh goal of the season. With the goal, Gallagher passed Alex Galchenyuk as the top scoring rookie on the Habs. Gally is now third in rookie scoring with 14 points this year.
With 17 points, Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau occupies the second spot among rookies. He leads all freshmen with 12 goals so far this season. Huberdeau is tied for most points on the Panthers with Tomas Fleischmann, while Shawn Matthias leads the team in plus/minus with a +2 rating. The only other player on the Panthers with a positive rating is new addition Jonathan Rheault who has played the last three games for Florida and managed a +2 rating.
What’s at Stake:
This is the last battle in Montreal’s 5-game road trip, the Canadiens already have a 3-1-0 record so far. Montreal has found a way to maintain their lead over the Eastern conference, but teams like the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins are still hot on their heels. The Panthers are sitting at the other end of the standings, they’re last place in the East with 20 points in 25 games. Even though the Habs are playing less than 20 hours after finishing up in Tampa, there are still two points on the table tonight that the Habs can’t afford to pass up.
Brandon Prust went hard into the boards chasing an iced puck on Saturday and left the ice with an apparent shoulder injury, it’s unclear whether he’ll play in Florida. The Canadiens are also without Rene Bourque (concussion), Rafael Diaz (concussion), Petteri Nokelainen (back) and Yannick Weber (lower body).
Florida’s injuries have begun to pile up as well, the Panthers are missing their top goalie, Jose Theodore (groin), their top center, Stephen Weiss (wirst), their captain, Ed Jovanovski (knee), as well as Scottie Upshall (lower body), Dmitry Kulikov (hand) and Mike Weaver (lower body).
For only a sixth time in 24 games, the Habs entered the third period of Saturday’s game trailing their opponents. Their “No Excuses” attitude helped them overcome the two goal deficit to earn their second victory under those circumstances. Last season the Habs went into 32 third periods down by at least one goal, they only managed to win one of those games.
Be sure to tune into the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show an hour before the puck drop and the Post Game Show 5 minutes after the final siren. Join the conversation by using the hashtag #MTLHockey on Twitter to take part in the live conversation.