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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Friday, December 31st (All times eastern)

Montreal Canadiens (20-16-2) at Florida Panthers (16-17-1), 5 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Montreal Canadiens will try to bring a difficult month to a close on a positive note when they visit the Florida Panthers for tonight's battle at BankAtlantic Center.

The Canadiens have posted a 5-8-1 record in December and have lost three straight and eight of their last 10 games. The swoon has dropped Montreal from first in the Northeast Division to three points behind the Boston Bruins.

Montreal is not only closing a calendar year tonight, but also a seven-game road trip. The Habs are 1-5-0 on the team's longest swing of the season and Montreal is now just 8-11-0 on the road this season.

The Canadiens were dealt a 4-1 loss Thursday night in Tampa as Steven Stamkos registered two goals and two assists to lead the Lightning to the easy victory at St. Pete Times Forum.

Max Pacioretty notched the lone goal for the Canadiens, who have scored just two goals in their last three games.

Carey Price stopped just 16 of the 20 shots he faced before getting benched in the third. Alex Auld came on in relief and turned aside all three shots he faced.

James Wisniewski made his Canadiens debut on Thursday and the defenseman logged 21 minutes, 48 seconds of ice time. Wisniewski was acquired in a trade with the New York Islanders earlier this week.

Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges has missed the last two games with a right knee injury and is questionable for tonight's test.

Meanwhile, the Panthers, have lost two of their last three games, but have just one regulation loss over their last five contests (3-1-1).

Florida gained a point in a loss in its most recent outing, as the visiting Boston Bruins claimed a 3-2 win on Monday thanks to Blake Wheeler's game-winner in the second round of the shootout.

David Booth and Mike Santorelli tallied for the Panthers and Scott Clemmensen took the loss despite 40 saves. Florida held a 2-1 advantage heading after 40 minutes, but David Krejci notched the equalizer for Boston midway through the third frame.

"The whole story of the game was missed opportunities," said Panthers head coach Peter DeBoer. "There were points in the game, like having that one-goal lead, where we should have buried some chances."

Booth, who has nine goals and 18 points this season, suffered a hip injury in Monday's game and is questionable for tonight.

Florida is expected to have winger Cory Stillman back in the lineup for the first time in over a month tonight. Stillman hasn't played since Nov. 27 due to a cracked bone in his back and has three goals and five assists in 20 games for Florida this season.

Fellow forwards Radek Dvorak and Rostislav Olesz are also due back for the Panthers tonight. Dvorak has been bothered by a shoulder injury and last played on Dec. 4. Olesz has missed the last 17 games since suffering a broken finger on Nov. 18.

The Panthers have lost five of their last seven home games and are 7-6-1 in Sunrise this season.

Florida recorded a 3-1 win in Montreal on Oct. 30, giving the Panthers just their third victory in the last 11 games of this series. The Canadiens have lost two of their last three in Sunrise, but also have four wins in their last six trips to south Florida.

12/31 11:14:08 ET

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