The Canadiens and the Lightning will meet in a game with playoff implications this evening. The Canadiens have won all three previous meetings against Tampa this season and will look to atone for the sweep the Bolts handed the Canadiens in the second round of the 2004 playoffs.
Tampa Bay who held the 7th place in the Eastern Conference for much of the past few months have struggled terribly since the Olympic break. Tampa Bay has lost five of its last six games being outscored 35-15 in those contests. Tampa General Manager Jay Feaster was unable to address the defending Stanley Cup Champion’s goaltending needs, and has left Tampa coach John Tortorella with the recently atrocious tandem of Sean Burke and John Grahame. Grahame is expected to get the start tonight after Burke allowed five to the 11th place Leafs on Saturday night. Montreal’s goaltending on the other hand remains red hot, Cristobal Huet is expected to get the start this evening as he is coming off of back-to-back shutouts and has only lost once in regulation in the past month.
Andrei Markov will be unavailable for the Canadiens this evening as back spasms have acted up providing an opportunity for Mark Streit to re enter the Canadiens line up. Streit will get the not over recently acquired Todd Simpson because of the team speed of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Streit has not seen NHL action since January 26th. This season Streit has one goal and six assists in 32 games with a less than impressive –7 rating. Streit has excellent vision and may see some time on the power play this evening as his slap shot may be one of the most accurate on the team.
Divide and Conquer
Bob Gainey has separated his offensive power throughout all four of his forward lines. Most notably on Saturday Canadiens top goal scorer Michael Ryder was moved to the “fourth” line with defensive specialists Radek Bonk and Steve Begin. Richard Zednik was reunited with Saku Koivu on the first line which also features the red hot rookie Chris Higgins who has found the back of the net six times in his past seven games. The second line remained intact with Mike Ribero centring Russian forwards Alex Kovalev and Alexander Perezhogin and Niklas Sundstrom found his way back into the line-up in a defensive role with Jan Bulis and Tomas Plekanec, that will most likely remain together this evening.
1. Alex Kovalev will play in his 900th career game tonight. Earlier this year Kovalev recorded his 300th goal, 400th assist and thus his 700th point.
2. Cristobal Huet has not lost in regulation on home ice this season.
3. Alexander Perezhogin has only scored once in his last 22 games.