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On Tuesday night, the Florida Panthers slink into town to take on the Montreal Canadiens. The big cats were off to a bad start, dropping their first three decisions while scoring just 4 goals. Since then, they have rebounded strongly with a 3-0 shutout against New Jersey last Thursday, and a 6-4 thumping of their state rivals the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Their recent success has certainly been tied to the improved power play. In last Saturday’s game, the Panthers managed three power play markers in 7 tries. Currently, the team is ranked ninth in the league, with a 22.2% success rate. Similarly, their penalty killing has also been steady, with an 82.5% success rate, good for 10th overall.

During the Habs practice on Monday, head coach Guy Carbonneau scrambled two of the four forward lines up. The second line had Tomas Plekanec centering Brian Smolinski and Alexei Kovalev. The third line had Mikhail Grabovski centering Andrei Kostitsyn and Tom Kotstopoulos. The top line of Saku Koivu, Chris Higgins & Michael Ryder will stay intact, as will the fourth line of Kyle Chipchura, Steve Begin & Mathieu Dandenault. UPDATE Habsinsideout reports that Begin & Latendress will be out of the lineup tonight. Replacing Begin will be Garth Murray. Source: http://www.habsinsideout.com/2007/10/audio_murray_in_begin_and_late/

Reportedly, Guillaume Latendresse will likely be a healthy scratch for the match against Florida. Latendresse is off to a rough start to the season, managing only two shots on goal while being held pointless in the team’s first 4 games. During yesterday’s practice he alternated on the fourth line with Garth Murray and Mathieu Dandenault. There are rumours that Latendresse will be scratched due to being 20 minutes late for the team meeting Monday; however, his ineffective play is a more likely reason for this benching.

HABS NOTES: Maxim Lapierre is off to a hot start for Hamilton in the AHL. After three games, he leads the team with eights points, including four goals and four assists and a plus six. He’s tied for the league lead in scoring. If he can continue his pace, and adjust to playing on the wing, he stands an excellent chance to become a callup to Montreal at the first opportunity

PANTHERS NOTES: Florida captain Olli Jokinen is looking for a chance to make Panther’s team history. He is currently tied for the the franchise record for points with 354, and is also one goal away from tying Scott Mellanby for the lead in that category. Jokinen hits an extra gear whenever he plays against the Habs. During his career, he’s scored 10 goals and 10 assists in 29 game, including two of his four hat tricks…Florida “rookie” defenceman Cory Murphy is off to a great start. He’s managed 1 goal and 4 assists in 5 games in his first NHL season. Murphy, 29, has spent the last 6 seasons playing for various European teams, after completing 4 years of college at Colgate. Due to his age, he won’t qualify for the Calder trophy race.