Rabid Habs

Game Day Preview: Habs vs. Panthers

As the Canadiens head into the final leg of the season, the biggest test may be complacency. The Canadiens have struggled against teams that are not in the playoff picture, and that test continues tonight with a home matchup against the Florida Panthers. While the Panthers are not mathematically eliminated, their chances of making the playoffs decrease every day with the success of Atlantic division opponents ahead of them.

On the other hand, the Canadiens have a chance to clinch a playoff spot with a victory tonight. According to NHL.com, these are the scenarios where the Canadiens could punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

The Montreal Canadiens will clinch a playoff berth:

* If they defeat the Florida Panthers in regulation or overtime

OR

* If they defeat the Panthers in a shootout AND either of the following occurs:

* The Tampa Bay Lightning lose to the Detroit Red Wings in any fashion or defeat the Red Wings in a shootout

* The Boston Bruins lose to the Dallas Stars in any fashion

OR

* If they get one point against the Panthers AND the New York Islanders lose to the Philadelphia Flyers in any fashion or defeat the Flyers in a shootout AND either of the following occurs:

* The Lightning lose to the Red Wings in any fashion

* The Bruins lose to the Stars in regulation

OR

* If the Lightning lose to the Red Wings in regulation AND the Islanders lose to the Flyers in any fashion AND the Carolina Hurricanes lose to the Columbus Blue Jackets in any fashion.

While there are several scenarios in which the Habs can guarantee a playoff berth, the only one that matters involves a regulation win over the Florida Panthers.

Lineups:

After taking a run from Toronto Maple Leafs’ forward Brian Boyle, Florida goaltender James Reimer will be out against the Canadiens tonight. The Panthers have since recalled Adam Wilcox from Springfield of the AHL. Reto Berra gets the start against the Habs.

Just like the Panthers, the Canadiens are dealing with goaltending injuries of their own. Injured at practice, Al Montoya is not ready to return to action just yet. Zachary Fucale, who was recalled on an emergency basis before the Habs victory over the Stars, was returned to the Brampton Beast of the ECHL, and Charlie Lindgren was recalled from the St. John’s IceCaps. Carey Price is expected to get the start in goal for the Habs.

Thursday afternoon, Claude Julien announced that Jordie Benn would not play against the Panthers. Benn is apparently dealing with an upper body injury, and will be reevaluated tonight. Julien adds that Benn is likely to travel with the team on their next road trip, while Montoya is unlikely to do so.

Recent Play:

The Panthers have struggled for the greater part of this season, and their struggles have continued into the final dozen games of the season. Over their last six games, Florida has only won twice. Despite that pattern, the Canadiens should be cautious of the Panthers, as one of those two wins was a 7-0 rout of the Chicago Blackhawks.

On the other end, the Canadiens come into tonight’s game feeling pretty good about themselves. The Habs have won four of their last six, including three wins against the Ottawa Senators. Against Dallas on Tuesday, the Canadiens’ top line seemed to get going again, with Max Pacioretty and Alexander Radulov each finding the back of the net in a 4-1 victory.

Game time is 7:30, and you can follow all of the action by following @rabidhabs on Twitter!