CANADIENS (45-27-8) vs. ISLANDERS (31-37-11)
Playing in its second-to-last game of the regular season, the Canadiens will square off against the New York Islanders on Thursday night at the Bell Centre.
The Montreal Canadiens could clinch the No. 2 seed in the Atlantic Division and home-ice advantage in the first round against the Tampa Bay Lightning with a win of any kind against the New York Islanders AND a loss of any kind by Tampa Bay against Philadelphia. The Canadiens would clinch the No. 2 seed in the Atlantic with an overtime or shootout loss AND a regulation loss by Tampa Bay.
On Wednesday, the Habs took a 2-1 lead into the final minute of the third period against the Chicago Blackhawks, but Marian Hossa tied the game with 48 seconds left and Patrick Sharp beat Peter Budaj in the first minute of overtime to win the game for the Hawks. Jeremy Morin had the first Chicago goal while Dale Weise and Francis Bouillon found the score sheet for Montreal. Alex Galchenyuk left the game in the first period with a lower-body injury and did not return.
The Islanders have allowed four goals in each of their last three games, all of them losses. On Tuesday, Frans Nielsen was the only Isle to light the lamp while Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky from the Ottawa Senators stole the show with three points apiece in a 4-1 Ottawa win. Goaltender Anders Nilsson made 28 saves in a losing effort for New York.
The Islanders are arriving in Montreal without their full roster. Lubomir Visnovsky, Brian Strait, John Tavares and Kyle Okposo are all out for the season with respective injuries. Cal Clutterbuck, Calvin de Haan, Michael Grabner are also banged up and may not play on Thursday.
Carey Price, who had the night off on Wednesday, is expected to start for the Canadiens. Douglas Murray has served his three-game suspension and is available for the game.
In the absence of most of its offensive core, Coach Jack Capuano is taking a chance on a few young guns. Brock Nelson, Casey Czikas, Anders Lee and Ryan Strome are all playing bigger roles on the current edition of the team. All four of these forwards are 23 years-old or younger. Nelson is ranked seventh in team scoring with 24 points in 69 games, but Anders Lee figures to be a player to watch. The University of Notre Dame alumnus has compiled 13 points in his first 21 NHL games while averaging three shots per game.
Thursday’s game will be the last of three confrontations between the Canadiens and the Islanders this season. The Habs are aiming for a season sweep, having won 4-2 in Montreal in November 2013 and 1-0 in Long Islander a month later.
Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EST.