Season Series: The Bolts and Habs face off for the first of four meetings on the year. Last season, the clubs split their matchups on the 2010-11 schedule, with Montreal taking the two most recent meetings.
The Big Story: The Lightning and Canadiens qualified for playoff spots last season, but so far in 2011-12, each club has been on the outside looking in. They’ll both look to build off key victories from their most recent outings, as Montreal defeated Ottawa in its first game under interim head coach Randy Cunneyworth, while Tampa Bay coasted to a 5-1 victory over a good Philadelphia team.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay plays in the rubber match of its current three-game home stand. The Bolts come in with points in four of the past five games, including Tuesday’s 5-1 rout of the Flyers at the St. Pete Times Forum. Steven Stamkos had two goals, including his league-leading 22nd of the year, and Bruno Gervais and Steve Downie also scored for the Lightning. Despite losing Victor Hedman to an upper-body injury early on, the Bolts defense stepped up to help out Mathieu Garon, who delivered the performance of the night with 31 saves against the NHL’s highest-scoring team.
CANADIENS – Montreal skates in the second-to-last matchup of its six-game road trip, which concludes on Saturday in a meeting with the Panthers. The Canadiens lost each of the first four games with interim head coach Randy Cunneyworth behind the bench, scoring a total of just six goals over that span. They were able to match that output on Tuesday against Ottawa, giving Cunneyworth his first win in a 6-2 victory over the Senators. Lars Eller had a goal, and Tomas Plekanec, Mike Cammalleri, Louis Leblanc, PK Subban and Erik Cole each had a goal and an assist for the Habs, which snapped an overall five-game losing streak.
Who’s Hot: Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos had a pair of goals Tuesday to tie Marian Gaborik for the NHL lead with 22, and Martin St. Louis has a goal and three assists since returning from injury. Montreal forward Tomas Plekanec has two goals and as many assists in his past four games, while Raphael Diaz has recorded four assists in his past three games.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Mattias Ohlund (knee, placed on Injured Reserve), Victor Hedman (upper body, day-to-day), Nate Thompson (lower body, day-to-day) and Ryan Shannon (lower body, out 2-4 weeks). CANADIENS – Brian Gionta (lower body, placed on Injured Reserve), Scott Gomez (groin, placed on Injured Reserve) and Andrei Markov (knee, placed on Injured Reserve).
Notable Quotable: “You take them any way you can get them. It wasn’t pretty, but if you look at the factors, the style of play we wanted to play, we had to change the game plan even more and we had to be a lot more disciplined.” – Steven Stamkos, on Tuesday night’s 5-1 win over Philadelphia
Connections: Marc-Andre Bergeron and Dominic Moore each suited up for the Canadiens during the 2009-10 season, while several members of the Lightning coaching staff including Guy Boucher, Dan Lacroix and Martin Raymond served in the same capacity for Montreal’s top AHL affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs, prior to coming to Tampa Bay last season. Bolts forward JT Wyman played three career NHL games as a Canadien in 2009-10 and was a member of the Boucher-coached Bulldogs in Hamilton. Tom Pyatt also skated in 101 career games with Montreal, including an NHL career-high 61 last season. Canadiens forward Mathieu Darche appeared in 73 games with the Lightning during the 2007-08 season.
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