The Panthers hope to shake their three-game losing streak this evening against the Montreal Canadiens, who are also on their second game in two nights. The Habs managed to escape Tampa Bay with a 2-1 shootout win as Carey Price came up big for the Canadiens. The Panthers are going to have to play a similar game as they did against the Habs on December 15, where the Cats survived with a 2-1 victory despite being drastically outshot towards the end of the contest. Meanwhile, Montreal will be lucky enough to deal with a fresh Tim Thomas, who is coming back into the crease for the Panthers tonight after Scott Clemmensen held the fort admirably.
Florida's really going to need to stay out of the box tonight, as bad penalties mostly cost them the game against Detroit. The penalties they're taking are mostly avoidable, especially the late hooks and bad offensive zone calls. Florida's discipline seems to be lacking and it seems to be a few repeat offenders. Head coach Peter Horachek needs to start punishing these offenders in some fashion, as their transgressions on the ice are repeatedly punishing the rest of the team thanks to an atrocious PK.
Join us tonight for some LBC GameThread action and be sure to visit Eyes on the Prize if you feel like seeing people type "OLE OLE OLE" versus hearing it from the throngs of Montreal fans that will fill the BB&T seats tonight.
Players to Watch:
- Tim Thomas - He's back, but is he ready? Thomas had a pretty long break while healing up from his latest injury issues, and should be fresh for the Cats. What remains to be seen is how sharp he'll be. The Canadiens aren't an offensive dynamo but they are very active from the defensive side when joining the rush, so it will be interesting to see if Thomas can respond to the added pressure if the Panthers break down.
- Brian Gionta - He's had a quiet December but is still playing at a high level. Gionta's one of those players that you can't forget about, as he'll suddenly make you pay with a timely goal. His 20 points through 38 games doesn't wow you but he's one of the constants in a Montreal lineup that isn't chock full of scoring talent.
- Tomas Kopecky - With only one goal in his last five games, Kopecky need to start scoring to help the Cats roll four lines effectively. He's been playing solid defensive hockey but needs to start showing up on the score sheet, particularly on the power play where he should be causing havoc in front of the net. The Panthers PP is utterly terrible and more point shots with screens in front are sorely lacking.
- Max Pacioretty - Pacioretty is heating up at the right time with Sochi Olympic team selection looming. With six goals in December, he's about the most dangerous scoring threat the Habs have on the ice in each game, and the Panthers are going to have to make sure he's held in check around the perimeter of the net. The Cats have to focus on taking away the speed of Montreal's transition game to make a guy like Pacioretty less of a threat.