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Game Day - Lightning - January 6

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

- The Canadiens held a morning skate at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Tuesday ahead of their tilt against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Bell Centre.

- Brandon Prust did not take part in the morning skate. He was given a therapy day. Prust, however, will play in Tuesday night’s game against Tampa. Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau wasn’t on the ice either. He remains sidelined with an upper-body injury.

- Head coach Michel Therrien confirmed that the Canadiens will field the same lineup that bested the Pittsburgh Penguins last Saturday night at the CONSOL Energy Center. That means that Mike Weaver will be a healthy scratch once again on the back end.

- After clearing waivers at noon EST on Tuesday, defenseman Bryan Allen was assigned to the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs.

- Michel Therrien’s troops go in search of a seventh straight win on Tuesday night. That’s a feat the Habs haven’t accomplished since the 2005-06 campaign when they rattled off eight straight wins between March 23 and April 6, 2006. Keeping the current winning streak alive, however, won’t be easy. Jon Cooper’s contingent sits tied with the Canadiens atop the Eastern Conference standings with 54 points, and they possess the league’s most potent offense with 134 goals on the year.

“They’ve got a lot of threats, especially if you give them the man advantage. They’re going to capitalize. We think we’ve been pretty disciplined of late. We went over some clips this morning. That’s going to be a huge key against Tampa, to stay out of the box,” stressed defenseman Nathan Beaulieu, who is fairly familiar with a few of the Lightning’s top guns, including Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov. “I got to play against them during my first year in the American League, and they’re really special players. To see what they’re doing at this level is something else. There are going to be a couple of guys that we’re going to have to be especially dialed in against. They’re real hot right now. They’re in the back of our minds for sure.”

If playing a disciplined brand of hockey is one key to Tuesday night’s game for Montreal, lighting the lamp first is certainly the other. The Canadiens are the only team in the league in 2014-15 that hasn’t come out on the wrong side of the score sheet after finding the back of the net before of the opposition.

“We’re looking to grab the lead every game. It’s a part of our game plan. The guys are becoming more at ease at playing with the lead and they’re making smarter decisions with the puck. That’s something that I appreciate as a coach,” mentioned Therrien, whose squad is 16-0-0 when scoring first through 39 games this season. “We’re going up against a team that has a lot of speed and a lot of energy up front, so we’re going to have to start the game with that same mentality.”

- There are a number of reasons why the Canadiens are riding high right now. While stellar goaltending, offensive depth and sound defense have a lot to do with it, forward Lars Eller says it also has to do with the makeup of the locker room and the coaching staff’s ability to keep the players focused on the task at hand, especially heading into a game like this one.

“They help keep us grounded. Trust me,” confided Eller, who has put up four points in his last five games. “I said it at the beginning of the season, too. It’s a humble group. We don’t get too high even when we’re on these streaks. We don’t float away. There’s plenty of motivation for this game. Last time we played Tampa, we got embarrassed. We certainly don’t want that to happen again. We’re battling for first in the division. There’s plenty of things to get excited about. I’m not worried about us coming out soft.”

Neither is the Canadiens’ bench boss, who insists the team he’s fielding on Tuesday night isn’t the same group that dropped a 7-1 decision to the Lightning back on October 13 in Florida.

“In the game we played against them earlier this season, they were very motivated and ready to take us on. They deserved the victory. But, we know we’re able to play better hockey against the Lightning,” offered Therrien. “We’ve become a different team. We’ve made progress since the start of the year. We’re really looking forward to the game.”

- Carey Price will make his 33rd start of the season on Tuesday night. He boasts a 10-8-4 record, a 2.43 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage in 22 career outings against Tampa Bay.

- Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EST. The game will be broadcast on RDS and Sportsnet East.

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