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Montreal Canadiens (39-32-8) at New York Islanders (33-35-10) – Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

The Montreal Canadiens will look to take one step closer to clinching a playoff spot as they visit the New York Islanders tonight. A Montreal win paired with either a regulation loss for the New York Rangers or the Philadelphia Flyers will ensure that the Habs will make the playoffs for the third consecutive season. A Canadiens’ win would also clinch a playoff berth provided that both the Rangers and Flyers lose in overtime or a shootout tonight. Montreal has won all 3 matches against the Islanders this season; the most recent of which was a 3-0 shutout in Long Island on December 19th, 2009. Nevertheless, the Islanders won’t prove to be easy marks, as they have won their last 2 games and are 6-3-1 over their last ten games. Montreal has outscored the Islanders 11-3 over the season-series and are 5-3-2 over their last 10 games.

The NHL’s 1st star of the week, Jaroslav Halak, (26-12-3, 2.31 GAA, .927 SV%) is 144:01 into a shutout streak that dates back to March 27th. Understandably, he will get the start tonight while Carey Price (13-20-5, 2.77 GAA, .912 SV%) watches the game from the bench. The never-ending carousal in the Islanders net includes Martin Biron (8-12-4, 3.02 GAA, .904 SV%) and Dwayne Roloson (23-18-6, 2.92 GAA, .909 SV%), but Biron has won his last 3 starts and looks to be the starter tonight. Quebec-born Biron has been in net for all 3 losses to Montreal this year, but has proven to be a thorn in the Habs’ side at times throughout his career, and is 6-0-2 in his last eight starts. Halak is 5-1-0 all-time against the Islanders, with a miniscule 1.16 GAA and a tight .961 save percentage.

Even though the Canadiens have been mired in a goal-scoring slump, Tomas Plekanec has remained productive. He has tallied 4 points in the last 6 games, continuing to lead the Habs in with 69 points (24G, 45A), and his next point will set a new career high in points. Scott Gomez (12G, 44A) and Habs’ goal-leader Mike Cammalleri (26G, 24A) round out the scoring leaders for Montreal. Perhaps an outing in Long Island will help the recently snake-bit Cammalleri, as has a point per game average in his career versus the Islanders. The Islanders are led in scoring by rookie John Tavares (22G, 27A), Kyle Okposo (17G, 30A), Matt Moulson (27G, 18A) and former-Hab Mark Streit (11G, 33A). Tavares is on fire lately, tallying 13 points in his last 9 games.

Neither team fares exceptionally well offensively, but the Islanders’ goals per game average (2.59) is slightly better than that of Montreal (2.56). However, there is a significant difference in the goals allowed category, as Montreal (2.61 GAA) does much better than New York (3.01 GAA). Despite mostly firing blanks since the Olympics, Montreal’s 2nd-best powerplay (21.8%) is vastly superior to the Islanders’ 3rd-worst unit (15.8%). There is a similar discrepancy between the two teams’ penalty kill units, with Montreal proving more effective (83.0% vs. 76.9%) with the man disadvantage. In the three games this year, Montreal has gone 5 for 13 (38.5%) with the man advantage while the Islanders have gone 2 for 16 (12.5%).

Montreal will be without the services of Glen Metropolit (shoulder) and Paul Mara (shoulder surgery). Jaroslav Spacek is believed to draw back into the line-up after missing the past 2 games with flu-like symptoms. The Islanders will be without Radek Martinek (ACL), Rick DiPietro (knee), Rob Schremp (knee), Doug Weight (shoulder surgery), Dustin Kohn (concussion) and likely Bruno Gervais (groin). Montreal has earned points in 12 consecutive games versus the Islanders, going 10-0-2 over that span.

The game can be seen on RDS and MSG -Plus. Game-time is 7:00pm EST.