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Montreal Canadiens at Florida Panthers - Game 39 Preview

Florida:19-12-7 (45PTS)
Montreal: 14-7-7 (35PTS)
Season Series: 1-0-0
Game Time: 7:00 PM EST
Television: Fox Sports Florida, CBC (Quebec), RDS
Radio: 560 WQAM

Please note late start. The game has been pushed back from its original 5:00 PM start so that CBC can broadcast the game in Quebec.

Tonight is many Panthers' fans least favorite night of the season: the New Year's Eve game against the Canadiens. Every game against the Habs provides an invasion of their fans, but the New Year's Eve game is always the worst, as the BankAtlantic Centre is transformed into Bell Centre South. The good thing from the perspective of the Cats fan tonight is that the Canadiens have not been very good as of late. They had a marginal record up until head coach Jacques Martin was fired, and have won only one of six games since Randy Cunneyworth took over. As much as we've piled on Martin here, his firing and the earlier dismissal of assistant coach Perry Pearn, both on game days, are nothing more than panic moves by a general manager whose days are numbered.

The other positive for the Panthers faithful is that the team is bound to come out angry at last night's poor performance in the first period, which was bad enough to lose them the game. They have generally responded well to losses this season, and even though they are still down six forwards, the talent level on the rest of the team is enough to beat the Canadiens if they play a good, disciplined game.

More from our Montreal cohorts at Habs Eyes On The Prize.
Canadiens vs Panthers coverage at SB Nation.
LBC Game Thread will open 30 minutes prior to puck drop.

News and Notes

Last meeting

Scottie Upshall had the game winner and Jacob Markstrom the win as the Cats defeated the Habs 2-1 in late October in their first visit to the Bell Centre (North) this season.

Last game

The Cats gave up a couple of goals early, Scott Clemmensen was pulled in the first period and the Panthers lost 4-1 to the Rangers. An ugly end to the period will probably end up on 24/7. Tomas Kopecky reacted to Michael Del Zotto crosschecking him in the head with a couple of sucker punches and picked up a match penalty with under a minute in the game.

Lineup

Evgeni Dadonov was returned to San Antonio following yesterday's announcement that Stephen Weiss was ready to play. They may have to recall him or another player from the Rampage if Kopecky is suspended for last night's altercation.

Injuries

  • F Scottie Upshall (hip), 11/10, 6 to 8 weeks
  • F Marcel Goc (concussion), 11/16, unknown
  • F Jack Skille (shoulder), 12/16, at least a week
  • F Sean Bergenheim (groin), unknown
  • F Marco Sturm (concussion), unknown
  • F Mikael Samuelsson (tailbone), day to day

Healthy Scratches

  • D Keaton Ellerby OR
  • D Erik Gudbranson

Starting goaltenders:

Lines

Forwards
  1. Fleischmann-Weiss-Versteeg
  2. Kopecky-Matthias-Repik
  3. Thomas-Kennedy-Bradley
  4. Barch-Santorelli-Thomas
Defense
  1. Campbell-Garrison
  2. Jovanovski-Gudbranson/Ellerby
  3. Kulikov-Weaver