HabsWorld.net -- 

The Montreal Canadiens
finish their 7-game road swing tonight, playing in Florida on New Year’s Eve. 
The Habs have gone an impressive 5-1-0 away from the Bell Centre, and won 2-1 in
overtime last night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Tomas Plekanec played
the overtime hero, Carey Price made 34 saves, and the Habs hung on to win despite
a 3rd period meltdown.  Tonight is the first meeting between the two clubs,
and marks coach Jacques Martin’s first visit back to his former team. 
Montreal won the season series last year, 3-1, but both clubs have
undergone significant roster facelifts since then.  The Panthers sit 12th
in the Eastern Conference, despite going 5-4-1 over their last 10 games. 
The Canadiens have the same record in the last 10 games, but rank 7th in the
East, just 1 point behind the Ottawa Senators.

Despite Carey Price’s
(10-13-3, 2.67 GAA, .914 SV%) strong performance last night, Slovakian Olympian
Jaroslav Halak (10-6-0, 2.56 GAA, .924) is likely to get the start in net for
Montreal tonight.  Halak has boasted impressive numbers lately and was
named the NHL’s first star of this past week.  Ex-Hab Tomas Vokoun
(11-11-7, 2.62 GAA, .922 SV%) is slated to start for the Panthers tonight, and
he has won 4 of his last 5 games.

Czech Olympian Tomas Plekanec ranks
among the NHL’s scoring leaders, and his 45 points (9G, 36A) in 42 games is best
on the Canadiens.  He has 11 points (3G, 8A) on the road trip and he and
Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis are tied for second in assists, trailing only San
Jose’s Joe Thornton (41).  Plekanec is followed in scoring by his linemates
Mike Cammalleri (19G, 17A) and Andrei Kostitsyn (12G, 13A), while Scott Gomez
(5G, 20A) has 7 points in his last 4 games.  In their returns from their respective injuries, Brian Gionta (9G, 6A) has 2 points in 2 games and
Andrei Markov has 8 points (3G, 5A) in 6 games.  Florida is led in scoring by Stephen
Weiss (18G, 19A), Nathan Horton (13G, 24A) and Steven Reinprecht (11G, 17A).

The Canadiens are still one of the lowest scoring teams (2.50
goals per game, 26th in the NHL) and are inferior to
the Panthers (2.70, 18th) in this department.  The ranks are
reversed in the Goals Against category, as the Canadiens (2.69 GAA, 11th)
are much more efficient in their defensive roles than the Panthers (3.08 GAA,
Despite being ranked 1st on the powerplay at 24.4%, Montreal hasn’t scored a
goal with the man advantage over the past 2 games, having only been afforded 3
chances over that span.  The Panthers struggle to score with the extra man and rank 23rd
with a 16.8%
conversion rate.  Montreal owns a superior penalty-kill as
well, with a success rate of 84.3% (8th) while Florida has only killed 79.5% of
their penalties (21st).

Montreal will likely only be
missing Paul Mara (hand).  If the roster is the same as last night, Max
Pacioretty and Georges Laraque will be healthy scratches.  Florida is
expected to be missing David Booth (shoulder surgery), Kenndal McArdle
(shoulder) and Dmitry Kulikov (knee).  Cory Stillman (knee) and Rostislav
Olesz (leg/ankle) are slated to return tonight.

The game gets underway at
5:00pm EST and can been seen on RDS.

This preview was written by Matt