CANADIENS (14-17-7) at PANTHERS (19-12-7)
TV: CBC, RDS (HD), FS-F
Last 10: Montreal 3-6-1; Florida 3-4-3
Season Series: Second of four meetings. Jacob Markstrom made 40 saves for his first NHL win and Scottie Upshall had the decisive third-period goal as Florida earned a 2-1 victory on Oct. 24 in Montreal. Erik Cole of the Canadiens and Tomas Fleischmann of the Panthers traded power-play goals in the first period.
Big Story: While the Canadiens need these two points to avoid falling farther back in the Eastern Conference's bottom seven, the Panthers are seeking to halt a recent slide that has allowed Southeast Division rivals like the Jets and Capitals to close ground on them.
Canadiens: Looking to string together consecutive wins for the first time under interim coach Randy Cunneyworth, Montreal was denied in painful fashion Thursday night in Tampa Bay. A pair of second-period goals by David Desharnais and Cole gave the Canadiens a 3-1 lead, but the Lightning got one back before the intermission and scored twice in third to hand the Habs a 4-3 defeat.
"We had some opportunities that we didn't capitalize on. … It's a broken record this year that we've got a 3-1 lead and we end up losing the hockey game," Cole said. "It continues to be a problem. We just need to sort it out."
Panthers: There was good news for Florida's corps of banged-up forwards on Friday night with the return of top-line center Stephen Weiss. Unfortunately for the Panthers, it did little to spark the team right off the bat. The visiting Rangers used a three-goal first period to chase Scott Clemmensen from the net and went on to hand the Cats a 4-1 defeat. Matt Bradley scored midway through the second, but the offense was otherwise shut down by New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist and his defense.
"We weren't ready for the game and there's absolutely zero excuse for that," Bradley said. "They're the top team in the Eastern Conference and we know they work hard -- that's their M-O. And to come out like that was embarrassing."
Who's Hot: Cole and Mike Cammalleri have goals in consecutive games for the Canadiens. Rookie defenseman Raphael Diaz has 5 assists over the last two games, nearly doubling his output for the season. … Erik Gudbranson, the No. 3 pick in the 2010 Entry Draft, followed up his goal Tuesday against the Maple Leafs with an assist on Bradley's score Friday -- those match the goal and assist totals for the Panthers' rookie over his first 27 NHL games.
Injury Report: Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov (knee) and forwards Brian Gionta (lower body) and Scott Gomez (groin) are on injured reserve. … Upshall (upper body) is one of six Florida forwards on injured reserve, joining Marcel Goc (concussion-like symptoms), Jack Skille (shoulder), Sean Bergenheim (lower body), Mikael Samuelsson (back) and Marco Sturm (head).
Stat Pack: Desharnais also picked up an assist on Cammalleri's goal Thursday for his seventh multi-point effort of the season. … Clemmensen had been 3-0-2 this season and hadn't lost in regulation since April 8 against the Lightning.
Puck Drop: Florida could be down yet another forward Saturday, though not due to injury. Tomas Kopecky was involved with an incident with New York defenseman Michael Del Zotto in the waning seconds of Friday's game in which Del Zotto got his stick up on Kopecky, who responded with a gloved punch to his opponent's face. Kopecky received a match penalty, which according to NHL rules subjects him to a review by the League for possible supplemental discipline.