Preseason Series: Tonight is the second of two games to be played between the clubs in the past three days. Montreal will attempt to avenge Thursday night’s loss to Tampa Bay in tonight’s preseason finale after falling to the Lightning 4-0 at the Bell Centre two days ago. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, comes into tonight with an all-time preseason record of 1-1-1 against the Canadiens and seeks to take a slight edge in the all-time exhibition series.
The Big Story: Tampa Bay has won three straight games and is on the verge of earning at least four victories in exhibition play for the fourth consecutive preseason. A win in tonight’s contest would also mark just the second time in franchise history that the Lightning have concluded a preseason campaign with wins in four straight games, as it did for the first time in 2008. Montreal, meanwhile, has lost four straight and looks to avoid ending its preseason on a five-game losing streak and with just one win in eight tries.
LIGHTNING – After suffering losses in each of their first two preseason games, the Lightning have done nothing but win, earning victories in three straight games and look to extend the streak to four with a win in the preseason finale tonight versus Montreal. Tampa Bay was equally as impressive at both ends of the ice on Thursday night in a 4-0 shutout of the Canadiens, as Steven Stamkos and Brett Connolly each scored twice and Dwayne Roloson pitched in 24 saves. The Lightning also were aided in the win by the return of winger Ryan Malone, who recorded one assist in just over 13 minutes of ice time in his 2011 preseason debut. Tampa Bay’s power play went one-for-three on the evening and enters tonight’s game operating at a 36 percent efficiency rate, which leads all NHL teams in the preseason. Following tonight’s game, the Bolts will head home and will resume practice next week at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon before departing Thursday afternoon for Carolina to prepare for the season opener against the Hurricanes on Oct. 7.
CANADIENS – Montreal had yet another chance to collect a win on Thursday night, but squandered the opportunity away early on. Canadiens goaltender Peter Budaj surrendered two first-period goals to Steven Stamkos and then allowed two additional tallies to Brett Connolly, one in each of the final two periods, before ultimately taking the loss in net. The score, though, was not entirely reflective of the Canadiens’ play. Montreal generated a number of good scoring chances, most notably from Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec, but could not capitalize due to a combination of some bad bounces and a few spectacular saves by Dwayne Roloson. Unlike the Lightning’s own success with the man advantage, Montreal failed to capitalize on all three power play opportunities throughout the night, while killing off just one of three opposing chances with the man advantage..
Who To Watch For: Tampa Bay’s Brett Connolly, the team’s leading scorer with five points in four games, will be back on the ice tonight as he aims to leave one final positive impression with the coaching staff before final cuts are to be made on Tuesday. Another prospect, Montreal’s Aaron Palushaj, also leads his club in scoring with four points in as many games and will look to add to that total tonight after being absent in the first meeting between the two teams on Thursday night.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Scott Jackson (off season knee surgery, out indefinitely), CANADIENS - None reported.
Notable Quotable: “Night and day. Brett Connolly last year was a junior who wasn't in shape and didn't know what it was all about. He brought his body up to a level now where he at least he can show what he is all about. Is it enough to win a job? We'll see, but right now he's battling so hard that we have to consider it.” – Head coach Guy Boucher, on the progression of Lightning forward Brett Connolly.
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