Season Series: It’s the second of four total meetings between the clubs, which opened up the season set last week in Tampa Bay as the Lightning earned a come-from-behind 4-3 victory. The teams will face off twice more during the regular season, including once each in each team’s home arena.
The Big Story: Tampa Bay sits right on top of Montreal in the Eastern Conference standings, despite both teams having identical matching point totals. After stringing together three straight wins at home, the Lightning have faltered as of late, suffering losses in each of the first two matches of its current three-game road set. They’ll look to avoid being swept on the trip in the finale at the Bell Centre, while Montreal seeks to build off a 7-3 win in its last game on Wednesday against Winnipeg.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay concludes a three-game road set against the Habs, and is still looking for its first win on the trip since leaving home earlier this week. No matter the outcome of Saturday’s game in Montreal, Tampa Bay will be glad to return home to the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where it is 11-5-0 this season, as opposed to just 6-14-3 on the road. The struggles away from home continued on Thursday, as the Bolts outplayed the Ottawa Senators, but fell 4-1 in a hard-fought effort. Steven Stamkos scored the only goal for Tampa Bay, his league-leading 28th of the year, to bring the Lightning to within one late in the game, but a pair of consecutive goals by Ottawa in the third period extended the Senators’ win streak to four, while it handed Tampa Bay its second straight loss overall and fourth consecutive defeat on the road. Dwayne Roloson stopped 20 of 23 shots for the injury-plagued Lightning, who lost both Adam Hall and JT Wyman in the game. The good news for the Bolts, however, is that Brett Connolly returned to the team following Thursday’s finale at the World Junior Championships, and is expected to play Saturday versus Montreal.
CANADIENS – Montreal hosts Tampa Bay in the rubber match of the team’s three-game home stand. Despite losing seven of their past nine games, the Habs got the home stretch off to a rolling start on Wednesday, powered by Lars Eller’s four goals in a 7-3 win over Winnipeg. Eller also added an assist to complete his five-point performance, and became the first Canadiens player to score four times in a game since Jan Bulis did it against Philadelphia on Jan. 25, 2006. Josh Gorges, Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Kaberle also added goals for the Canadiens and Carey Price finished the game with 24 saves.
Who’s Hot: Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos is currently enjoying a five-game goal-scoring streak, lighting the lamp eight times in that span, while Martin St. Louis has points in six of his past seven games since returning from injury. For the Canadiens, Erik Cole has three goals and as many assists in his past four games and David Desharnais also has a goal and four points in his past three contests for Montreal.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Mattias Ohlund (knee, placed on Injured Reserve), Ryan Shannon (lower body, out 2-4 weeks, placed on Injured Reserve), Ryan Malone (lower body, day-to-day), Victor Hedman (concussion, out indefinitely), Adam Hall (upper body, out indefinitely) and JT Wyman (upper body, day-to-day). CANADIENS – Brian Gionta (lower body), Scott Gomez (lower body), Andrei Markov (knee) and Ryan White (lower body)
Notable Quotable: “I thought we played well, we just didn't score. We had lots of chances, the puck just wasn't going in — crossbars, bad breaks, the power play was moving the puck well and lots of guys had chances to score. It's not fun, but we can't keep our heads down. We have to realize that we played well and keep at it.” – Lightning forward Steven Stamkos, on his team’s performance on Thursday at Ottawa
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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