HabsWorld.net -- 

Still idling in ninth place in the Eastern Conference the Montreal Canadiens must scratch and claw for every single possible point to ensure the Canadiens first back-to-back playoff appearances since the 1997-98 season. However the importance of this game for the Toronto Maple Leafs is exponentially greater. The now eleventh place Leafs must win tonight’s game, a loss in regulation time would push the Leafs at least seven points out of the final playoff spot depending on how the Atlanta Thrashers fair this evening. The Leafs would have only twelve games remaining to make up the lost ground.

Thursday’s game saw the Canadiens explode for four goals in the first period en route to a 5-1 victory over the rival Leafs. Without a doubt the Leafs will be playing as a much more desperate hockey team tonight. Mikael Tellqvist allowed four goals eleven first period shots but was kept in for the remainder of the game by Leafs bench boss Pat Quinn. Tellqvist is expected to be back in goal for the Leafs this evening. Cristobal Huet was able to stop all but one Leafs shot improving his record in the Bell Centre to 6-1-2 with a 1.44 GAA and a .953 save percentage. Huet will be expected to come up big for the Canadiens once again tonight.

Bob Gainey is expected to dress seven defenseman for the second consecutive game as Andrei Markov and Craig Rivet are both battling through injuries. Francis Bouillon was hoping to make a return to the line-up Saturday but suffered a set back in the Canadiens optional practice yesterday. Bouillon said he would be able to play through the pain but he has limited strength and range of motion in his ankle.

Scoreboard Watching

Yet another blow was dealt to the Canadiens and Leafs playoff hopes last night as the New Jersey Devils beat the Boston Bruins 4-2 lifting them to 79 points and a share of sixth place in the Conference with the Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning. The Leafs also fell a spot in the standings from tenth to eleventh as the Florida Panthers were able to upset the New York Rangers in a shootout. Both the Canadiens and the Leafs will keep a watchful eye on tonight’s game between the eights place Atlanta Thrashers and the New York Islanders. The sixth place Lightning are also in action as they will play host to the Rangers.


Fun Facts

  1. Although Saku Koivu had an inspired effort on Thursday setting up the Canadiens first goal and providing countless chances for himself and his line mats to score his goalless drought is now at twenty games.

  2. On Thursday Mike Ribeiro matched a season best six game point streak, this evening he will have the opportunity to match his career best seven game point streak. Ribeiro had his seven game point streak last season between November 8th and the 20th.

  3. The Toronto Maple Leafs will try to snap a drought of their own as they have not scored an even strength goal in 337 minutes and 21 seconds.

  4. Since recording his first shutout of the season on February 4th Cristobal Huet has not gone five consecutive games without recording another one. If Huet is unable to stump the Leafs tonight that streak would end. On another positive note, Huet now has the best save percentage in the NHL.