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Florida
Panthers
35-31-16
Montréal
Canadiens
42-34-6

25 SOG
29 SOG
1st2nd3rdT
FLA
MTL
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Panthers-Canadiens Preview

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:51 AM

Associated Press

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Panthers-Canadiens Preview
Florida Panthers vs. Montréal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens hope their first game following a players-only meeting can stop a slide down the Eastern Conference standings.

The Canadiens try to begin turning around their recent struggles and avoid recording their longest losing streak of the season when they host the Florida Panthers on Tuesday.

Montreal (29-22-6) won a season-high five in a row from Dec. 12-21, and appeared set to challenge Buffalo for the Eastern Conference lead. Since then, though, the Canadiens have gone 8-14-1 to fall into a tie with Tampa Bay for sixth in the East with 64 points.

During that 23-game stretch, Montreal has been held to one goal or less nine times - including three shutout losses. Its defense hasn't fared much better, allowing at least four goals in 10 games, going 0-9-1.

The Canadiens have matched a season high by losing their last three games, and a fourth in a row would equal their longest skid from all of last season.

Montreal's players held a 29-minute, closed-door meeting after giving up the opening goal for an eighth straight game Saturday in a 5-3 loss to Ottawa, completing a home-and-home sweep to its Northeast Division rival.

"Six or seven weeks is not a slump, it's a pattern of play," forward Mike Johnson said. "It's almost habitual at that point.

"It's not something you can write off to the length of the season or anything like that. It's something on-going within the team."

All-Star goaltender Cristobal Huet has lost his last three starts, yielding at least four goals in each, and is 4-9-0 with a 3.64 goals-against average in his last 13 outings.

Huet seems to have lost the No. 1 netminder job to David Aebischer, who has started five of the team's last seven games. Aebischer is 3-4-1 with a 2.83 GAA in his last 10 games.

Besides tightening up their defense, the Canadiens will need to rediscover a stagnant offense.

Saku Koivu needs one goal to match last season's total of 17, but has just two in his last 24 games. Alexei Kovalev, who had 23 goals and a team-high 65 points last season, has just 13 goals and 38 points in 2006-07.

"When things are going bad, you can't expect things to turn it around in one period," Koivu said. "First you have to get good habits back, then get the bounces and the other stuff we're looking for."

The Canadiens are 1-2-0 against Florida this season, with the only win coming in Montreal for their third straight home victory over the Panthers. Koivu and Kovalev scored in the shootout to lift the Canadiens to a 1-0 win on Nov. 28.

Florida (21-25-11) ended a three-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over Los Angeles on Saturday.

Leading scorer Olli Jokinen, Martin Gelinas, Chris Gratton and Nathan Horton each had a goal and an assist for the Southeast Division's last-place team.

"We capitalized on all our chances," said Jokinen, who has 24 goals and 33 assists in 57 games. "It was a good, solid team game for 60 minutes."

Jokinen recorded his second career hat trick in Florida's 5-1 home win over the Canadiens on Nov. 16, but hasn't had a point in the last two games against them.

Ed Belfour, who made 23 saves Saturday, has beaten the Canadiens twice at home this season while limiting them to two goals. Belfour is 4-1 with a 2.18 GAA in his last five games at Montreal.

2006-2007 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Feb 13 '07FLA 1 at MTL 0J. Bouwmeester
Dec 29 '06MTL 1 at FLA 3N. Horton
Nov 28 '06FLA 0 at MTL 1 - SOS. Koivu
Nov 16 '06MTL 1 at FLA 5O. Jokinen
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%