In a rare Monday showdown at the Bell Centre the Canadiens are set to meet the Tampa Bay Lightning whom they have just passed in the standings and currently hold a 1 point lead over. Needless to say this is a huge game for both teams as the Canadiens try to continue their recent success and move higher in the standings while the Lightning try to avoid falling out of the playoffs altogether.
The Lightning have never been playing poorer than they are now. Ok, maybe in 1992 but since the Cup Champs returned to the ice they’ve struggled considerably. The Lightning have allowed 40 goals in their last 6 games and have only won once in that period with an OT win against Pittsburgh. The Canadiens are coming off back to back shut outs and are playing probably the best hockey they’ve played all season. The last time these teams met the Canadiens scored 6 in a 6-2 road win. On paper this should be a wash out for the Habs.
The Canadiens can open up a 3 point lead tonight and still hold a game in hand. The Canadiens have only 1 regulation loss in their last 10 games but probability says they’re bound to give one up eventually. There seems to be no sense of urgency and no confidence in the Lightning’s game right now but they must surely realize the importance of this game. Goaltending continues to be their biggest problem and will likely continue to be after not picking up a better goaltender at the deadline.
Andrei Markov’s status is unknown after leaving the Rangers game with back spasms. Without Markov the Canadiens are a much weaker team and everyone is hoping this isn’t serious or lengthy. There is no hotter player in the game right now than Cristobal Huet who’ll look for a 3rd straight shutout and his 6th in 13 games. Jose who?
Winning tonight will also put the Habs 1 only point shy of the New Jersey Devils and 6th place in the East.