NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, February 1st (All times Eastern)
Tampa Bay Lightning (31-18-5) at Montreal Canadiens (29-20-5), 1 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Montreal Canadiens hope to continue their recent hot play, as they shoot for a third straight win in Saturday afternoon's home test against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Montreal has won two straight on the heels of an 0-4-0 slide, beating a visiting Carolina club by a 3-0 score on Tuesday before notching a 4-1 win Thursday night in Boston. The Habs received crucial second-period goals from Brian Gionta and Danny Briere on Thursday to down the Atlantic Division- leading Bruins at TD Garden.
The Canadiens jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period before Boston's Dougie Hamilton cut the deficit to one before the end of 20 minutes. However, Gionta notched a power-play goal to give the Habs a 3-1 edge at 11:54 of the second period and Briere tallied 1:52 later to arrive at the final margin.
"This was close to a complete game for us," said Briere.
Alexei Emelin and Max Pacioretty also lit the lamp for the Canadiens, who haven't won three in a row since posting a season-high five-game winning streak from Nov. 30-Dec. 7. Brendan Gallagher picked up a pair of assists, while Peter Budaj backed up his teammates with 34 saves.
Carey Price expects to get the start today and the club's No. 1 goaltender is 10-6-3 with a 2.37 goals against average in his career against Tampa.
Montreal is beginning a four-game homestand this afternoon and the club is 15-9-3 at the Bell Centre this season.
The Canadiens enter Saturday holding onto the seventh playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but Montreal is only a point back of Toronto for third place in the Atlantic and four behind the second-place Lightning. The top- three teams in each division earn an automatic bid to the playoffs.
Montreal and Tampa have split the first two of four meetings this season, with each club picking up a road shootout win. The Canadiens have taken five of the past six encounters in this series overall and the Lightning had lost four straight in Montreal before recording a 2-1 shootout win at the Bell Centre on Nov. 12.
Tampa Bay has lost two straight and enters Saturday with some goaltending questions after the club's top-two goaltenders Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback suffered injuries in Thursday's 5-3 loss at Ottawa.
Bishop's upper-body injury took place moments before the game's first goal. Tampa's No. 1 goaltender dove to his left in an attempt to knock the puck away from Ottawa's Mike Zibanejad, but Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov, who was trailing on the play, failed to jump over Bishop. Kucherov's knee hit the back of Bishop's head and the Vezina Trophy candidate remained on the ice for several minutes before leaving the game.
Lindback stopped 23-of-27 shots in relief of Bishop, but Tampa's backup also suffered an injury when he was run into by Ottawa's Cory Conacher. Although Lindback finished Thursday's contest he has been ruled out for today, while Bishop practiced on Friday and is questionable for this afternoon's contest.
Although Bishop's participation in practice on Friday is a good sign, the Lightning recalled two goaltenders from the AHL for today's game just in case Bishop was unable to suit up. Both Cedrick Desjardins and Kristers Gudlvevskis were called up from Tampa's AHL affiliate in Syracuse for Saturday.
Bishop is having a phenomenal season for the Lightning, posting a 26-7-4 record along with a 2.01 GAA, .932 save percentage and four shutouts.
Determining the starting goaltender for tonight's contest will be a game-time decision for Lightning head coach Jon Cooper.
Victor Hedman, Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn scored for the Lightning in Thursday's loss.
Tampa forward Valtteri Filppula also was lost to an injury on Thursday and he is not expected to play on Saturday.
The Bolts are 0-2-0 so far on a four-game road trip. The Lightning haven't lost three games in a row of any kind since an 0-3-1 slide from Nov. 16-22.
02/01 11:30:38 ET