The Cats will attempt to keep the good vibes rolling against the Montreal Canadiens tonight at the Bell Centre as the Panthers and Habs will square off at 6 PM. Montreal is playing some fantastic hockey as of late, going 7-2-1 in their last ten and are fresh off a shutout OT victory against the New York Islanders, with Carey Price taking home the no-hitter. The Canadiens and head coach Michel Therrien are one of the toughest teams to score on in the league this season, tied for third best in goals allowed, but are having trouble scoring as well, with only a +14 goal differential.
That's still vastly better than the -32 goal differential of the Panthers, but if Florida can play a sound defensive game and get another good performance out of back-up Scott Clemmensen, the Panthers could come away with a win against a team that sits 16 points ahead of them in the division standings. The Panthers should have plenty of energy after a rousing (yet exhausting) 3-2 shootout win over former division rival Washington on Friday night. The Panthers played perhaps one of their most complete games all season and they did it without blueline anchor Erik Gudbranson, who was removed from the game after a match penalty taken while trying to obliterate Capitals forward Eric Fehr.
The Panthers could be without the services of Jonathan Huberdeau, who is shaping up to be a game-time decision due to a bruised foot suffered while blocking a shot in the last game. Gudbranson managed to avoid any extra discipline from NHL Punishment Czar Brenden Shanahan, so he'll be suiting up.
Watch for the LBC Gamethread before the puck drops; join us for the always wonderful comments of a fanbase that has more interest in Tim Thomas' groin than should be legally allowed.
Players to Watch:
- Nick Bjugstad: The big center for Florida is starting to become a scoring threat nearly every shift, and he doesn't seem to take any shifts off, something fans of this club are far too used to. Bjugstad's line of himself, Scottie Upshall and Huberdeau is by far the Panthers top line in terms of scoring chances the last several games, and Bjugstad is the biggest reason why.
- P.K. Subban: The guy every one loves to hate is turning in another great season for the Habs, leading the team in scoring and playing solid defensive hockey for the most part. Subban leading the team in scoring is not as impressive as it sounds on a team that struggles to score goals, but he really is a threat to make a play every time he leads a rush up the ice. The Panthers forwards will have to be aware of when he's out there.
- Alex Galchenyuk: The sophomore is posting some solid numbers for Montreal despite bouncing around in the lineup. Therrien has moved Galchenyuk around a bit from the top line to the third line and back up and back down again. Whether it's a confidence thing or a motivational tactic, it doesn't seem to bother Galchenyuk, who has nine goals and 21 points thus far. Oh, and those nine goals would make him the leading goal scorer on the Panthers.
- Brad Boyes - Why, you ask? With this matchup being a game of two teams that struggle to score having a potentially defensive showdown, there's a decent chance we'll see a shootout. Enter Boyes.