MTL@TBL: A matter of discipline
Staying out of the penalty box will be a top priority for the Canadiens on Saturday nightby Matt Cudzinowski @CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com
TAMPA - The Canadiens held an optional skate on Saturday morning at Amalie Arena.
Head coach Claude Julien confirmed that he won't be featuring any lineup changes for the tilt against the League's top team.
That means that Matthew Peca and Charles Hudon will be healthy scratches up front, while Christian Folin is out on the back end.
During his pre-game press conference, the veteran bench boss reiterated the need for his group to avoid finding themselves in short-handed situations against a Lightning lineup that boasts the top-ranked power play in the NHL.
"Discipline will be very important. They skate well, so if we don't skate we'll find ourselves in the penalty box for a good part of the night," insisted Julien, who is fully aware that Tampa Bay's power play units have clicked on 29.8% of their opportunities so far this season. "It's up to us to bring our best game tonight."
Video: Claude Julien's pre-game press conference @ TBL
Sniper Nikita Kucherov is at the heart of the Lightning's success with the man advantage. He boasts a League-leading 36 points when Tampa Bay is up a man.
"He's just a good player, a smart player. When the puck's on his stick, he's a very dangerous player. That's his strength," explained Julien, on one of Jon Cooper's many offensive weapons. "You just have to look at his stats to see that stuff. If we play the right way, we keep him playing in his own end. That's to our advantage."
It won't be easy, of course, but Julien is hoping that his group can channel some of the positives they took away from the previous meeting with the Lighting on December 29 - a 6-5 loss in the Sunshine State.
"We're going up against the best team in the League right now. They're very talented offensively. That's why we have to skate if we want to match them," explained Julien. "That's what we did the last time we were here. We skated well and we played well. We have to bring that type of game tonight."
Thompson returns to Tampa
Newcomer Nate Thompson sported the Lightning's colors for 305 games between the 2009-10 and 2013-14 campaigns, so he knows exactly what they're capable of when they're firing on all cylinders.
In his mind, Tampa Bay's success in recent years stems not only from their immense talent up and down the roster, but from a sense of familiarity amongst the group.
"I think a lot of guys have played together for a long time, some guys have played in the minors together and come up together," said Thompson. "They can roll four lines. If you shut down one line or two lines, usually another line will get you, too. Against a team like this you have to play a full 60 minutes."
Video: Nate Thompson on staying out of the penalty box
Like Julien, Thompson indicated that lacking discipline on Saturday night will surely prove costly.
"I think the biggest thing we want to do is not take any penalties and keep them off the power play because they're dangerous," stressed Thompson. "But, if we do get in that situation, the cliché is sticks in lanes, blocking shots and obviously our goaltender has to be the best penalty killer. We can't give them too much time, because if they do [have time], they can make you pay."