SEASON SERIES: The Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens became new division rivals as part of the Atlantic Division this season. The Bolts took the season series three games to one, however the two clubs were evenly matched with three out of four games ending in overtime.
BIG STORY: It took a shootout in the last game of the regular season, but the Lightning managed to clinch home ice advantage, which could play an important role in a series that could go the distance. Tampa Bay’s netminding will also be a factor with Ben Bishop’s status unknown, leaving Anders Lindback and Kristers Gudlevskis to man the crease. Bishop will miss Game 1.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay weathered the storm over the last leg of its schedule, winning all four contests in the final week of the regular season, despite missing some big pieces to the puzzle. For one, Bishop missed those games, while Valtteri Filppula, Michael Kostka, Ondrej Palat and Sami Salo were also absent for different lengths during that stretch.
Yet with goalies Anders Lindback and Kristers Gudlevskis filling in for Bishop, the Lightning proved they still have fight. Since Kostka and Salo have both returned, and Filppula and Palat are expected to be ready for Game 1.
A majority of the Bolts lineup enters Wednesday’s tilt without playoff experience, including head coach Jon Cooper. Yet Cooper and company vow that winning a Calder Cup with the Norfolk Admirals in 2012 and appearing in the Finals with the Syracuse Crunch in 2013 during their stint in the AHL makes them more than compotent for the NHL postseason.
CANADIENS – The Habs won 23 contests away from the Bell Centre this year, giving them confidence as they start on the road versus the Bolts. Two other boosts come from their player personnel. Center Lars Eller will return to the lineup after missing three games with the flu, while forward Brandon Prust is working his way back from an upper body injury.
One person Montreal will be without, however, is skilled forward Alex Galchenyuk, who will miss the entire first round of the playoffs with a lower body injury. With the ability to play wing or center Galchenyuk spent time moving between the second and third line this season and began to build steam before suffering the injury.
WHO’S HOT: Named the NHL’s First Star of the Week for the period ending on April 13, Anders Lindback glistened with a 3-0-0 record, 0.65 goals-against average, .975 save percentage and one shutout during the stretch. Forward Ondrej Palat boasted a six-game point streak (four goals, four assists) before missing the last game of the regular season with an upper body injury…For the Habs goaltender Carey Price is in top form, winning eight out of his past 11 starts. In the season finale, Price recorded a shutout in a 41-save effort versus the New York Rangers.
INJURY REPORT: Lightning – G Ben Bishop (upper body, out), F Valtteri Filppula (lower body, day-to-day), D Brian Lee (knee, out), F Ondrej Palat (upper body, day-to-day); CANADIENS – F Alex Galchenyuk (lower body, out), F Travis Moen (concussion, day-to-day), F Brandon Prust (upper body, day-to-day)