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Slumping Canadiens invade South Florida

Sunday, 02.26.2012 / 12:12 AM

John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

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Slumping Canadiens invade South Florida
Montréal Canadiens vs. Florida Panthers
CANADIENS (24-28-10) at PANTHERS (28-10-12)


TV: RDS (HD); TSN-HABS (HD); FS-Florida


LAST 10:
Montreal 5-4-1; Florida 5-4-1

Season Series: It's the third of four games between the Eastern Conference teams. Florida has won the first two, most recently a 3-2 win before a packed house at BankAtlantic Center on new Year's Eve.

Big Story: Both teams come into the game in unaccustomed places in the standings. The Canadiens, who've won more Stanley Cups than any other franchise, come to South Florida last in the Eastern Conference. In contrast, the Panthers -- who haven't made the playoffs since 2000 -- start the day in first place in the Southeast Conference after a 3-2 shootout win at Carolina on Saturday night.

Team Scope:

Canadiens: This continues to look like a lost season in Montreal. The Canadiens dropped their third in a row on Friday night when they were beaten 4-1 at Washington, a team that had been struggling as badly as they were. The only good news was a third-period goal by Rene Bourque, which averted a fourth straight shutout loss to the Caps.

With two games in Florida, coach Randy Cunneyworth is giving starter Carey Price the night off and will start backup Peter Budaj against the Panthers.

"He's been very patient and he's ready to take on the task. I think the workload has been great on Carey Price, who's performed very well," coach Randy Cunneyworth said. "We have the utmost confidence in Peter and his efforts have proven in the past that he'll do a great job for us. We obviously have to do a great job in front of him - the two go hand in hand, and if one is missing, it's obviously not good enough, so we all have to make sure we're onboard and playing the right way."

Panthers: Wojtek Wolski started Saturday preparing to be a healthy scratch for the New York Rangers. He ended it as one of the heroes of Florida's come-from-behind win in Carolina.

Following a hard conditioning skate and workout, Wolski found out he'd been traded by the Rangers to the Panthers. The weary forward hopped a plane, landed in Raleigh less than two hours before game time -- and scored the tying goal with less than two minutes left in regulation. Stephen Weiss' shootout goal gave the Panthers the win and moved them back into first place in the Southeast.

"It was a crazy day, but it worked out," said Wolski, who was happy to go to a team where he'll get a chance to play -- Saturday's game was his NHL contest since Jan. 15.

"We obviously needed those two points. The system is similar to some of the systems I've seen in the past, so it was easy to kind of jump in. I liked how fast and how skilled the guys are, especially the `D.' They jump in the play all the time, which is nice."

Who's Hot: Florida's Tomas Fleischmann had a goal on Saturday and five goal and six assists in his last 13 games.

Injury Report: Montreal is missing forwards Travis Moen (lower body), Mathieu Darche (upper body) and Brian Gionta (biceps surgery). Defenseman Andrei Markov, sidelined all season due to knee surgery, is skating and hopes to play again, but there's no timetable for his return. … Florida got high-scoring defenseman Jason Garrison (ankle) back on Saturday but is still without forwards Marcel Goc (lower body), Matt Bradley (concussion), John Madden (lower body), Marco Sturm (knee) and Scottie Upshall (sports hernia surgery), as well as defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (knee)

Stat Pack: Florida is 22-2-4 this season when scoring three goals. … Florida defenseman Brian Campbell played 30:28 on Saturday, the fifth straight game in which he's seen more than 30 minutes of ice time. … The Panthers have scored the tying or go-ahead goal in the final five games nine times this season.

Puck Drop: The Panthers won a shootout at Carolina on Saturday, but neither Florida nor Montreal has been very good at the tiebreaker this season. The Panthers are 4-7 -- with all seven losses coming at home. But the Canadiens are even worse -- they lead the NHL with eight shootout losses in 11 tries, though they are 2-2 away from the Bell Centre.

2011-2012 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Mar 27 '12FLA 3 at MTL 2 - SOW. Wolski
Feb 26 '12MTL 2 at FLA 4S. Weiss
Dec 31 '11MTL 2 at FLA 3T. Fleischmann
Oct 24 '11FLA 2 at MTL 1S. Upshall
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
M. Pacioretty60252146-14834
D. Desharnais63123446+101832
E. Cole63222345+93683
T. Plekanec62123042-184642
T. Kaberle6322527-19600
A. Kostitsyn53121224-81633
P. Subban6242024+07820
R. Bourque5717522-115631
L. Eller60121022+24001
M. Cammalleri3891322-61012
T. Moen489716-34100
Y. Weber4841216-42040
R. Diaz5831316-63001
B. Gionta318715-71620
M. Darche615712-41800
J. Gorges6321012+103201
S. Gomez33279-91421
H. Gill53178-72900
L. Leblanc26347+21200
C. Campoli24246-4400
A. Emelin51235-62200
P. Nokelainen43224-82601
M. Blunden28213-2900
J. Spacek12033+2200
F. St-Denis8101+1800
A. Palushaj22011-1400
R. White6011-41000
A. Engqvist10000-1400
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
C. Price5422-23-913115492.40.915
P. Budaj92-6-1262652.87.902
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
K. Versteeg59222749+23675
T. Fleischmann61202545-52253
S. Weiss59153045+74845
B. Campbell6143842-8610
J. Garrison56131124+81682
D. Kulikov4642024-52821
S. Matthias60101323+22511
T. Kopecky6061622-123011
M. Samuelsson3481220+31440
S. Bergenheim4114418-13841
M. Goc3651015+1621
M. Weaver6101414+21000
M. Santorelli52729-71811
M. Bradley45358-33100
E. Jovanovski46268-102110
J. Skille40347-102601
E. Gudbranson52235-185600
M. Repik17235-3610
J. Smithson55145-43000
W. Wolski11134-1200
K. Ellerby32044-3800
M. Sturm34213-122501
E. Dadonov15213-4200
K. Barch41123-19800
S. Upshall17123-22501
T. Strachan12123+2500
T. Kennedy27112-11401
B. Thomas7101+0000
M. Cullen6011+2200
D. Booth6011-6200
J. Madden15000-3200
R. Carter7000-1600
B. Kearns5000+01000
C. Robak3000+1000
N. Yonkman1000+0000
J. Matsumoto1000+0000
G. Rallo1000+0000
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
J. Theodore3716-11-68310362.39.920
S. Clemmensen2311-5-5566092.71.908
J. Markstrom72-4-1172222.66.923
B. Foster10-0-0010.001.000