BROSSARD - Heading into Tuesday night's game against the Lightning, the consensus inside the Canadiens' locker room is that a tough test awaits.
And Claude Julien's troops have good reason to feel that way when they're being tasked with stymying the likes of Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov up front, and Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Mikhail Sergachev on the back end.
That's just a short list of the weapons Lightning bench boss Jon Cooper has at his disposal, and the Canadiens know it.
"They're a talented group that can do a lot of damage if we aren't ready to play the right way," said head coach Claude Julien, following the morning skate. "That'll be a hungry team on the other side. They've got a lot of pride. They haven't had the start to the season they were hoping for, so we have to be ready to play a good game and execute."
Julien is right about Tampa Bay's slow start, which has seen them collect just five out of a possible 10 points to date. In their most recent outing on Saturday, they were doubled up 4-2 by the Senators in Ottawa.
To say the Lightning will be fired up to right the ship at the Bell Centre would be an understatement.
"They're obviously a team that's not been all that used to losing too many hockey games the last couple of years, so they probably have a little bit of a bitter taste in their mouth," said assistant captain Brendan Gallagher. "But for us, that doesn't really matter. We know how important these points are, especially at home against these division teams. We know they're going to play hard. They always play hard. It's on us to bring that same effort we had last Saturday [against St. Louis] and try to come away with the same result."
Video: Brendan Gallagher on the matchup against Tampa Bay
Speaking of the win over the Blues, Julien won't be making any lineup changes versus Tampa Bay and has elected to stick with the same group. That means that forward Nick Cousins and defensemen Mike Reilly and Cale Fleury will be healthy scratches.
For his part, Nick Suzuki remains on a line with Paul Byron and Nate Thompson, and with five games under his belt the 20-year-old London, ON native is feeling more and more at ease in his surroundings.
"I'm feeling better. I'm just kind of getting more confident every game and trying to find my way out there and keep playing my game as well," explained Suzuki, who has already learned some valuable lessons during his short tenure in the NHL ranks. "[I've learned] you've got to capitalize on every chance you get. You don't get too many offensive chances each game, so you've got to make the most of every opportunity you get."
Video: Nick Suzuki on his role on the power play
That's exactly what Suzuki plans to do when deployed on the power play. He's relishing the opportunity to make a good impression on the coaching staff while the Canadiens are up a man.
"They liked me on the power play, and I want to show them that I'm a capable player there," insisted Suzuki. "I'll be trying to make the most of the opportunity on the power play. It's a big role and we're going to be needed tonight."
Suzuki finds himself on a power play unit that also features forwards Joel Armia, Max Domi and Tomas Tatar, along with defenseman Jeff Petry, and they'll be the first group the Lightning face should they get into penalty trouble.
Julien's reasoning for putting Suzuki and company out there straight away is rather simple.
"It's the unit that scores goals," said Julien. "They deserve to start the power play because they're the ones delivering results."
Video: Claude Julien's pre-game press conference vs. TBL
As for forward Jonathan Drouin, he'll be looking to extend his point streak to six straight games to start the year.
Should he register his name on the scoresheet, he would become the first Canadiens player since defenseman Andrei Markov in 2008-09 to accomplish the feat.
Markov's streak spanned seven games, during which he collected 10 points (10A) between October 10 and October 25, 2008.