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Game Day - Lightning - March 10

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

- The Canadiens skated at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on Tuesday in preparation for their tilt against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Bell Centre. Jon Cooper’s contingent is two points back of the Canadiens, who currently sit atop the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference standings with 90 points. The Lightning have won three straight games.

- Defenseman Alexei Emelin took part in Tuesday’s on-ice session alongside his teammates. He will not, however, suit up against the Lightning. That was confirmed by head coach Michel Therrien at practice on Monday.

- Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau, Manny Malhotra and Mike Weaver will likely be healthy scratches on Tuesday night. No lineup changes are expected against Tampa Bay.

- The Lightning enter Tuesday night’s contest as the League’s highest scoring team with 222 goals in 68 games. For their part, the Canadiens sit atop the League on the defensive side of things, allowing just 146 goals thus far during the 2014-15 campaign. That has everything to do with the outstanding play of Carey Price, who has been a veritable wall all season long. With that in mind, what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? We’ll find out come 7:30 p.m. EST. The Lightning have been the better of the two squads through two games, lighting the lamp 11 times, while conceding just three markers. But, P.K. Subban insists the Canadiens’ defense corps is up to the challenge that awaits them at the Bell Centre.

“We have to be solid defensively every game,” offered Subban, who, along with partner Andrei Markov, have blocked a combined 252 shots this season. “When you look around the League, you see that not a lot of goals are being scored these days. Take a look at how the League is developing right now, the focus is on the defensive side of things. You need to be solid defensively to give yourself a chance to win. Games are too close and the teams are too good, regardless of where they sit in the standings. This will be a good defensive test for us, especially against a team that scores as much as the Lightning do.”

With four 20-plus goal scorers on the roster, the Canadiens will have their hands full trying to slow down a Lightning squad with players like Steven Stamkos in the fold. Stamkos registered a hat trick in the first meeting of the year between the two clubs on October 13. The Lightning captain aside, the Canadiens will also have to key in on several other offensive threats both up front and on the back end.

“Whether it’s Steven or guys like Crosby, Malkin or Ovechkin, it’s a challenge every night. This League is really good and you can’t focus on just one player on every team. Even fourth line guys can make you pay if you’re not ready. But, it’s definitely a challenge playing a guy like that,” stressed Subban. “It’s my job to make sure that he doesn’t have a good night.”

- While the Canadiens and the Lightning haven’t seen one another often during the 2014-15 campaign, you get the sense that these two Eastern Conference powerhouses don’t necessarily enjoy each other’s company. That likely stems from last year’s opening-round playoff matchup, and it clearly carried over into the regular season.

“It’s not a physical matchup like we have with Boston. Definitely the teams are starting to build a hatred for each other,” confirmed Dale Weise, who has one goal and two points in five career regular season games against the Lightning. “We haven’t played each other in a while. They’ve embarrassed us twice. We’ve got a hatred for them now.”

The Canadiens will have to keep that so called “hatred” under control, however, as penalty trouble ultimately burned the CH the last time the two teams met in early January. Fortunately, Weise believes his squad has demonstrated significant improvement in that department over the last eight weeks.

“I think the biggest thing, if you look at that game, is our discipline. We were playing a good game there. We took a couple of penalties. That kind of gave them the game there. So, it’s our discipline and our consistency that’s different,” confided Weise, who ranks third on the team with 124 hits in 63 games. “I think we know what to expect from our club every night. It’s not about which Montreal Canadiens team is going to show up. I think we know what kind of team is going to show up against Tampa. We’ll see which team wins.”

- Carey Price will make his 54th start of the season for the Canadiens. He boasts a 10-9-4 record, a 2.51 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage in 23 career regular season outings against the Lightning. Ben Bishop should get the start for Tampa Bay.

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

Projected lineup against the Lightning:

Pacioretty – Desharnais – Weise
Galchenyuk – Plekanec – Gallagher
Eller – De La Rose – Smith-Pelly
Prust – Mitchell – Flynn

Subban – Markov
Gilbert – Petry
Beaulieu – Gonchar

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