The Montreal Canadiens return home tonight to conclude their home and home series with Tampa Bay which begun on the 30th of December with the Lightning destroying the Canadiens 3-1, Montreal was out shot Saturday night 41-13 as Tampa controlled the game from start to finish.
With that loss the Canadiens lost consecutive games in regulation of the first time this season. Tampa Bay snapped a mini two game losing streak with the win and have now won four of their last six. Montreal’s last home game was a twelve days ago when they posted a 4-2 victory over the lowly Philadelphia Flyers, since then however the Canadiens lost three of four on their annual southern holiday road trip.
For the first time in what seems to be ages Guy Carbonneau did some line juggling during the Canadiens horrendous effort against Tampa Bay. Carbonneau reunited Guillaume Latendresse with Saku Koivu and Michael Ryder and tried both Radek Bonk and Chris Higgins with Alex Kovalev and Sergei Samsonov. Tomas Plekanec found himself on the third line between Alexander Perezhogin and Mike Johnson. Surprisingly thought Coach Guy has not broken up the Russian Duo of Kovalev and Samsonov who have only managed to be consistent and inconsistently scoring. Kovalev has just 2 goals in his previous 16 games and Samsonov has just 2 in his last 28.
Cristobal Huet will carry his league leading .931 save percentage into tonight’s game and is expected to start for the Canadiens for the fifth time in a row. Countering for the Lighting should be Johan Holmqvist. Holmqvist is 10-8 in his rookie season and has a 2.86 goals against average which is good for 23rd in the NHL.
Alexander Perezhogin who scored the Canadiens only goal against Tampa Saturday also received some vulcanized rubber to the mouth courtesy of Tomas Plekanec late in the third period. Perezhogin status is unknown at this point but no call up was made from Hamilton forcing one to believe that either he will play or Begin will return to the Canadiens line-up.
1. Since the Canadiens started going south around Christmas time in 2003 their record is an abysmal 3-8 (against Atlanta, Carolina, Florida, Tampa Bay and Washington)
2. After scoring in consecutive games 8 times last season Michael Ryder has not accomplished that feat even once this season. (including 5 games goal streak Dec 10th-20th.)
3. Although Kovalev and Samsonov are rarely scoring the Canadiens do well when they do so, posting a record of 8-1-2 when one or both of the Russians score.
4. Johan Holmqvist has not faced 30 or more shots in his previous 9 starts while Huet has faced 30 or more in 7 of his last 9 and 40 or more on three occasions.