With only two games left in the season, the Montreal Canadiens will be taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Bell Centre in the front half of a back to back.
The Habs were ousted 2-1 by the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night. With the Habs locked in at 1st in the Atlantic, they seemed to be playing very cautiously with minimal effort in order to ensure that they stay healthy for the playoffs. It will be interesting to see whether the Habs will continue to play like this tonight, or if they will give it their all in order to find a rhythm heading into the playoffs.
The Lightning will be playing their 2nd game in as many nights, and are coming off of a huge 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Although Montreal has little to play for, Tampa Bay is still fighting hard for a playoff spot. Tampa is currently in a three-way battle for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, along with the Leafs and the Islanders. The Lightning will need to win out their remaining games in order to have a chance to make the playoffs. With Tampa’s season on the line, expect them to come out absolutely flying tonight.
Plekanec has been far from what Habs fans expected this year, only scoring his tenth goal of the season on Wednesday night. This is Plekanec’s lowest goal-scoring season since his rookie year in 2005-06 when he scored 9 goals in 67 games. Over the past few years, Plekanec has usually been one of Montreal’s best players, consistently scoring around 20 goals while putting up 50-60 points in most years. If the Habs want to succeed in the playoffs, Plekanec is going to need to be at his very best. With the Habs already having a weak center core by playoff standards, it is crucial that Plekanec finds his game by the time playoffs roll around. With 2 goals in his last 4 games, this is Plekanec’s best chance to get hot and find his stride. There has never been a better time to get hot for Plekanec, and if he finds his game come playoffs, he will play a huge part in Montreal’s playoff success.
Since being acquired from the LA Kings, Dwight King has not managed to get a single point in his 15 games so far with the Habs and has been scratched on a few occasions. King was mainly brought into Montreal to bring in some playoff experience. With the LA Kings, King played a total of 69 playoff games over four seasons. With all of his playoff experience, King could play a big bottom 6 role for the Habs in the playoffs and could be a massive difference maker down the line. Unfortunately, in order to bring this experience to the roster, King is going to need to solidify his place in the lineup first. These last two games are very important for King, as it his last chance to prove to Claude Julien that he belongs in the lineup come game 1.
With several injuries on the Habs blueline, Brett Lernout will be making his season debut tonight after being called up from the Ice Caps on Thursday. The Habs drafted Lernout at 73rd overall in the 3rd round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. So far in the AHL this season, Lernout has 3 goals, 13 assists, and is a +5. He will be playing his 2nd career NHL game with the Habs, as he also played one game towards the end of last year’s disastrous season. During his 1st NHL game, Lernout was unfortunately struck with an injury that put him out for the rest of the year. It will be interesting to see how Lernout fairs in a full game, as he could potentially be a solid bottom pairing defender with the Habs in the future.
Montreal Lineup Notes
-Although there has been a lot of debate whether the Habs should play him or not, Carey Price will be starting in goal tonight. Julien stated that the reasoning for his decision is that Price would rather not have a long break before the playoffs, even if it means risking an injury.
–Alexei Emelin left Wednesday night’s game with an injury and will miss the final two games of the regular season. He will be reevaluated in the next few days. Depending on the severity of the injury, Emelin may end up missing a few playoff games.
-With several injuries on the blueline, tonight’s D-pairings will be Markov-Nesterov, Davidson-Petry, and Lernout-Beaulieu.
With the Lightning fighting it out with the Leafs for the final playoff spot, a lot of Habs fan are debating whether or not they would like to see Montreal lose in order to jeopardize the Leafs playoff chances. In spite of that, leave a comment on whether you will be cheering for or against the Habs tonight. Puck drop is at 7:30 EST. Go Habs Go!