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On a day that the first snowfall blanketed the city of Montreal, the Canadiens get set to play their first game without Russian superstar Alex Kovalev. Meanwhile, the Florida Panthers will be looking for their first win since October 25th, having gone 0-6-2 since then, including a 5-4 overtime loss against the Habs. The Panthers seem almost due for a win and should come out flying tonight as they try to take advantage of an ailing Montreal team. The Canadiens depth will be put to the test tonight, with several injuries still stalking the team.

Everything seems to be going wrong for the Florida Panthers right now as they’ve lost 8 straight games and picked up only 2 points during that span. On Saturday, Florida was 3 seconds away from picking up a third point during a 4-4 tie with the Philadelphia Flyers before Mike Knuble scored a short handed marker to win the game. It has been just that that kind of time for the Panthers.

The Habs aren’t the only team with injury trouble, as Florida has had their own share with a list that includes Joe Nieuwendyk, Anthony Stewart, Rotislav Olesz, and Nathan Horton. Questions have been raised to whether or not Nieuwendyk will be forced to retire do to his back trouble. Meanwhile, we haven’t really had a good look at what Nathan Horton can do, as injuries have plagued the 2003 1st rounder since he joined the organization.

If the Florida Panthers are going to end their losing streak tonight, they will need to play as a team and have a big game from goaltender Robert Luongo. The Panthers currently sit only above the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference. Their power-play has been terrible, and is currently third worst in the league, while their penalty-kill hasn’t been much better.

With Kovalev out of the line-up, look for head coach Claude Julien to tweak the lines a bit. Alexander Perezhogin is the front runner to get the open spot on the first line along side Richard Zednik and Saku Koivu. He has had success on the top line before, but that was with Kovalev on it instead of Zednik.

Goaltender Jose Theodore will be watching this one from the bench, as undefeated Yann Danis will get his third start for the Habs tonight against the Panthers. Danis was sent down to Hamilton last week, and pulled off wins in all three of the games he played. He was recently recalled, while goaltender Cristobal Huet was demoted for some conditioning since he’s recently returned from a knee injury.

GM Bob Gainey was quick to call up forward Maxim Lapierre from the Hamilton Bulldogs. Lapierre has been described as a player who plays a game quite like Steve Begin and Chris Higgins. If injuries to Radek Bonk and Jan Bulis keep them out of the game tonight, don’t be surprised to see Lapierre make his debut. Also, Sheldon Souray may be returning to the line-up tonight after missing a game from a bruised foot he got in a loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Montreal Canadiens will look to pick up their first win since they’re 5-game winning streak was snapped two games ago. To do so they’ll need to stay out of the box and continue to take advantage of their own power-play opportunities. 

So let us hope the Florida Panthers don’t heat up and ruin our fun now that there’s finally some snow out there.

Projected Line-ups:

Montreal Canadiens
Richard Zednik – Saku Koivu – Alexander Perezhogin
Chris Higgins – Mike Ribeiro – Michael Ryder
Steve Begin – Tomas Plekanec – Niklas Sundstrom
Pierre Dagenais – Maxim Lapierre -Mathieu Dandenault

Andrei Markov – Craig Rivet
Sheldon Souray – Mike Komisarek
Fancis Bouillon – Mark Streit

Injuries & Scratches: Jan Bulis [LW, shoulder], Radek Bonk [C, groin], Sheldon Souray [D, foot], Jose Theodore [G, scratch]

Florida Panthers:
Gary Roberts – Olli Jokinen – Niklus Hagman
Martain Gelinas – Stephen Weiss – Juraj Kolnik
Chris Gratton – Josef Stumpel – Kristain Huselius
Greg Jacina – Serge Payer – Gregory Campbell

Jay Bouwmeester – Sean Hill
Joel Kwiatkowski – Mike Van Ryn
Lukas Krajicek – Eric Cairns

Injuries & Scratches: Joe Nieuwendyk [C, back], Anthony Stewart [C, wrist], Rotislav Olesz [LW, knee], Nathan Horton [RW, knee], Branislav Mezei [D, knee], Jammie McLennan [G, scratch], Alexander Karpovtsev [D, scratch]

Starting Goalies: Yann Danis – Montreal, Robert Luongo – Florida

The Week Ahead
Nov. 18th at New Jersey 7:30 PM (RDS)
Nov. 19th vs. Washington 7:00 PM (RDS)