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Preview: Montreal
(25-23-5) at Florida (22-21-9) – January 26th, 2010.

The Montreal Canadiens will
look to build on their modest 2-game winning streak as they travel to Florida to
face the Panthers tonight.  The two teams have met twice this season and
Montreal won both games by scores of 5-4 and 2-0. 
Montreal is coming off of an impressive 6-0 victory over the New York Rangers
and earned 5 out of 6 points last week.  Florida is also coming off a
Saturday shutout performance, as they blanked the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-0. 
Although Montreal and Florida sit 7th and 11th in the Eastern Conference
rankings, only 2 points separate the clubs.  Florida has gone 5-3-2 over
their past 10 games while Montreal has gone 4-4-2.

Jaroslav Halak (14-7-1, 2.45 GAA, .927 SV%)
will get the start tonight, and is 2-0 this season against the Panthers. 
Carey Price (11-6-4,
2.73 GAA, .913 SV%) will likely get the start in Tampa Bay tomorrow.
Florida will start Tomas Vokoun (17-15-9, 2.37 GAA, .931 SV%) in net after he
went 2-1-1 last week.  Despite just recording 2 wins, Vokoun posted 2
shutouts and allowed only one goal in a regulation loss to New Jersey and a
shootout loss to the Islanders. Furthermore, he stopped 131 of 133 shots for an
amazing .985 save percentage, and has earned 3 shutouts in his
past 8 games.

Tomas Plekanec sits 16th
among the NHL’s scoring leaders, and his 51 points (12G, 39A) in 53 games is best
on the Canadiens.  Plekanec is followed in scoring by his linemate
Mike Cammalleri (26G, 20A) and Scott Gomez (7G, 28A).  Other potent Habs
include Benoit Pouliot (10 goals in 15 games for Montreal since coming over from
Minnesota) and Brian Gionta (3G & 4A in the past 6 games).  The Panthers
feature Nathan Horton (17G, 29A), Stephen
Weiss (19G, 25A), and Steven Reinprecht (13G, 20A) as their scoring leaders,
although Horton is currently sidelined with a broken tibia.

Despite their 6-goal outburst
on Saturday, the Canadiens remain one of the lower scoring teams (2.57 goals per
game, 22nd in the NHL), slightly worse than the Panthers (2.67, 16th).  The
opposite is true for goals against, as the Canadiens (2.68 GAA, 12th)
are more efficient in their defensive roles than the Panthers (2.81 GAA, 18th). 
Montreal’s powerplay is still functioning successfully with a rate of 24.7%,
second only to the Washington Capitals.  The same cannot be said for the
Panthers, who only convert 16.9% of their man advantage opportunities (22nd in
the NHL).  Similarly, Montreal’s penalty kill (84.3%, 7th) is vastly
superior to Florida’s (81.0%, 18th).

Montreal will be
missing Paul Mara (upper body) and Andrei Kostitsyn (knee surgery).  Max
Pacioretty and Matt D’Agostini were sent to Hamilton on Sunday with Ben Maxwell
called up in their stead.  Florida is
expected to be missing David Booth (concussion) and Nathan Horton (leg), while
Steven Reinprecht (foot) is questionable for tonight.

The game gets underway at
7:30pm EST and can been seen on RDS and FS-F.

This preview was written by Matt