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LIGHTNING (31-18-5) vs. CANADIENS (29-20-5)
Tampa Bay 5-4-1; Montreal 4-6-0
Sun Sports/CBC/RDS; AM 970 WFLA
Saturday's matinee matchup is the third of four meetings between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens. Both of the previous meetings between the new division rivals went to a shootout, as each team won one game apiece.
After losing two consecutive road games for the first time since November, Tampa Bay looks to salvage two points against their third straight Atlantic Division opponent this week, despite a new wave of injuries.
LIGHTNING – It did not take long for bad fortunes to haunt the Lightning in their most recent loss Thursday night. In attempt to make a play on the puck outside of the crease, goaltender Ben Bishop caused a collision with the back of his head and teammate Nikita Kucherov's skate less than two minutes into the tilt. Anders Lindback assumed duties between the pipes and despite getting hurt after former Bolt Cory Conacher fell into his net, managed to stay in the game. Valtteri Filppula also suffered a lower body injury in the 5-3 loss.
The Bolts mounted a late rally, compliments of a shorthanded Tyler Johnson goal and a Victor Hedman tally, but time ran out. Now Tampa Bay must regroup quickly with Saturday's game scheduled for 1 p.m.
Head coach Jon Cooper reported that Bishop's status for Saturday afternoon will be reevaluated tomorrow, while Filppula is doubtful. Lindback is not expected to return before Olympic break begins.
CANADIENS – Manning the crease for the first time since January 8, goaltender Peter Budaj stopped 34 shots and helped the Canadiens defeat the division-leading Boston Bruins, 4-1, Thursday night.
In their second win in three nights, they too snapped the Bruins four-game winning streak. Montreal also took advantage of an inconsistent Tuukka Rask, who has lost seven out of his last 11 starts, as he was pulled midway through the second when captain Brian Gionta gave the Habs a 3-1 lead at 11:54 of the period.
Now within four points of the Lightning in the standings, Montreal looks to continue their winning ways as they go for their third-straight victory Saturday after previously losing four in a row. With Budaj playing for the first time in nearly a month there is a possibility that Team Canada Olympic goaltender, Carey Price, will get the nod in net.
Helping on two goals Thursday, Ondrej Palat extended his point streak to five games (two goals, seven assists), while linemate Tyler Johnson has five goals, two of which were shorthanded, in his past four. Blueliner Victor Hedman also has eight points (one goal, seven assists) in his past four contests.
1/24 – Reassigned F Richard Panik to the Syracuse Crunch (AHL)
Lightning – G Ben Bishop (upper body, day-to-day), F Valtteri Filppula (lower body, day-to-day), D Brian Lee (knee, out), G Anders Lindback (lower body, out), F Steven Stamkos (broken right tibia, out); Canadiens – F Alex Galchenyuk (broken hand, out)
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