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HW Victory Keys: Habs look to rebound vs Panthers
HW Victory Keys: Habs look to rebound vs Panthers(2013-01-22 10:43 posted by B. La Rose)

The Habs look to get into the win column on Tuesday night as they host the visiting Florida Panthers.  Both squads are coming off mediocre efforts, Montreal having lost to Toronto on Saturday while Florida was walloped 4-0 at the hands of the Senators yesterday.  It appears that both teams will be changing up their lineups for this game.

To the surprise of many, Lars Eller was skating on the '5th line' alongside Michael Blunden at Monday's practice, suggesting that he could very well be scratched tonight.  Rookie Brendan Gallagher was practicing on the third line and is likely to make his NHL debut.  For the Panthers, Scott Clemmensen is expected to get the start after former Hab Jose Theodore played against the Senators on Monday, allowing 4 goals on 37 shots.

The injury bug has hit the Panthers early on this year.  Kris Versteeg, their third leading point getter from 2011-12, was placed on Injured Reserve yesterday while the team is also missing defenceman Erik Gudbranson plus forwards Marcel Goc and Sean Bergenheim.  Drew Shore was recalled prior to the Ottawa game and will be available for tonight's contest.  If he does play, it will be the 21 year olds' NHL debut.  For the Habs, Petteri Nokelainen remains out with a back injury sustained prior to the beginning of the lockout while Aaron Palushaj is on SOIR with a shoulder injury. He is expected to miss around one more week.

The Habs struggled against Florida last season losing all four games for the first time in franchise history.  Prior to that, Montreal had won 11 of the prior 14 matchups.  However, three of the games were one-goal contests including one decided in a shootout.  Erik Cole has had some recent success against the Panthers; in the past two seasons, he has collected points in 10 straight games (7 goals and 5 assists).

Projected Lines

Florida (1-1-0) Montreal (0-1-0)
Fleischmann - Weiss - Upshall
Huberdeau - Mueller - Kovalev
Kopecky - Matthias - Santorelli
Parros - Smithson - Skille

Kuba - Campbell
Kulikov - Weaver
Jovanovski - Ellerby


Pacioretty - Desharnais - Cole
Bourque - Plekanec - Gionta
Prust - Galchenyuk - Gallagher
Moen - White - Armstrong

Markov - Emelin
Gorges - Diaz
Kaberle - Bouillon


Victory Keys

1) Special Teams: The powerplay on Saturday night was nothing short of abysmal.  Sustained pressure was rarely there while gaining the zone was also a frequent challenge.  The penalty kill was better but both of Toronto's goals came in the slot area, something they will need to rectify.

2) Keep the Crowd Excited: It didn't take long for the crowd to be largely neutralized against Toronto.  Early penalties quashed any enthusiasm from the pre-game ceremonies and it took far too long to get the fans excited after.  An early goal, a big hit, anything like that to get the fans into the game would be a big bonus for the Habs.

3) Top Six Success: The top two lines sputtered through a lot of the Toronto game, something that simply cannot happen if the Habs hope to have a chance to win most nights.  Whether it's 5-on-5 play or on the powerplay, they need to be better in this one.

Puck drop is at 7:30 PM EST and can be seen on RDS.

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