Rabid Habs

Game Day Preview: Habs vs. Panthers

With just four games remaining in the 2016-17 season, the playoff picture is is becoming clearer for the Canadiens. After clinching a playoff berth against the Florida Panthers next week, the Habs can lock up the top spot in the Atlantic Division with a win against the same Florida squad tonight.

On Saturday night, the Canadiens took care of business against a desperate Tampa Bay team with an impressive 2-1 overtime victory. The Habs are in for a different challenge tonight, as they take on a Florida team that is only playing for pride at this point. After being eliminated from the playoffs, the Panthers will look to avenge the 6-2 loss to the Canadiens from last week.

Added Intensity:

While there isn’t a rivalry between the Habs and the Panthers, there may be some residual distaste for one another after what transpired at the Bell Centre less than a week ago. Former Boston Bruin Shawn Thornton got into an altercation with Habs defenseman Alexei Emelin, after Emelin delivered what Thornton thought was a high hit on Derek MacKenzie. Emelin, who doesn’t like to fight due to a facial fracture he received during a fight in the KHL, “turtled” according to Thornton. Post game, Thornton shared his feelings for the Russian blue-liner with the media:

Pretty strong words coming from a guy who sprays super stars with water…

First Line Clicking:

It seems that the first line is getting hot at exactly the right time. Captain Max Pacioretty has six points in his last four games, and Alexander Radulov has four points in his last three games. With a goal from Philip Danault, the Canadiens top line led the way against Tampa Bay, as they were the only line to produce points.

Know Your Enemy:

Like the Lightning, the Panthers are a year removed from a playoff appearance, but will miss the playoffs in an injury riddled season. Jonathan Huberdeau, Aaron Ekblad and Aleksander Barkov have missed time for the Panthers, and their absence was too much to overcome. When the Habs last played the Panthers, they were without their two NHL goaltenders. Reto Berra made the start, as Roberto Luongo and James Reimer dealt with injuries.

One pattern the Habs should hope to end is the success Quebec born players have against the Canadiens. Tonight, Jonathan Marchessault would be a good place to start. The 26 year-old Quebec native is one goal away from his first 30 goal campaign.

Lineup Notes:

It was announced Monday that Shea Weber is dealing with a lower-body injury, and will miss the Canadiens next two games. Weber was sent home to Montreal while the team finishes their road trip. Even though Weber’s injury will cause him to miss the next two games, it can be assumed that Montreal’s seven-point lead over the Boston Bruins gave Claude Julien the safety to keep Weber out of the lineup.

Davidson remains in the lineup, and Nesterov pulls into the lineup in Weber’s absence.

It also looks like Carey Price will get the night off in Sunrise, Florida. Recent call-up Charlie Lindgren is expected to get the start against the Panthers. In 45 games with the IceCaps, Lindgren has played to the tune of a 2.62 GAA and a .913 save percentage. Al Montoya remains day-to-day.

Reto Berra, the Panthers third string goaltender from the American Hockey League, will get the start in goal. Berra was the Panthers’ goaltender last week when the Panthers came to the Bell Centre.

Mackenzie Weegar will make his NHL debut with the Panthers tonight. The 23 year-old Ottawa native was selected by the Panthers in the seventh round of the 2013 entry draft. In 57 games for the Springfield Thuderbirds of the AHL, Weegar has recorded 32 points and 68 penalty minutes.

Game time is 7:30 EST. Follow @rabidhabs for more updates! Go Habs Go!