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Game Preview: Panthers @ Canadiens

The Canadiens can officially lock up a playoff spot on Thursday night with a win in regulation time or OT

by Montreal Canadiens @canadiensmtl /

Florida (33-32-11, 77 points) @ Montreal (43-24-9, 95 points)

Claude Julien's troops play host to the Florida Panthers on Thursday night at the Bell Centre, going in search of their third straight win and trying to secure a playoff berth in the process.

If the Canadiens manage to down the Panthers in either regulation time or OT, they'll officially clinch a postseason berth after failing to do so last year.

Carey Price will make his fourth straight start for the Canadiens. Charlie Lindgren could very well serve as Price's backup. Lindgren was recalled from the AHL's St. John's IceCaps on Wednesday afternoon after it was revealed that Al Montoya remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

The Canadiens enter their penultimate regular-season meeting with the Panthers on a high note after downing the Dallas Stars by a score of 4-1 on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre. Thrust into action after Montoya went down during the morning skate, Price made 27 saves to pick up his 35th win of the year. Meanwhile, Alexander Radulov and Max Pacioretty snapped nine and six-game goal droughts, respectively, as the Canadiens' top line came up big in the win.

Video: Markov makes franchise history as Habs beat Stars

For his part, Andrei Markov tied Hall-of-Famer Guy Lapointe for second spot on the Canadiens' all-time points list among defensemen with the 572nd point of his career when he assisted on a third-period tally by Artturi Lehkonen.

The Panthers enter Thursday night's contest on a two-game losing streak and are on the verge of being mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.

Jonathan Marchessault leads Tom Rowe's squad with 29 goals on the year, while Aleksander Barkov and Vincent Trocheck are Florida's top point-getters with 52 points each.

Only a few players skated Thursday morning at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard, including goalie Charlie Lindgren, forwards Brian Flynn, Torrey Mitchell and Michael McCarron, as well as defensemen Nikita Nesterov and Andrei Markov. The veteran Russian blue-liner didn't skate on Wednesday, having taken a treatment day instead.

Defenseman Jeff Petry also stretched his legs a bit on the ice, taking a few shots without equipment.

Julien has announced a few changes to the lineup tonight. Andreas Martinsen and Brandon Davidson draw in, while Jordie Benn (injury) and Mitchell will not play.

The two teams will meet again on April 3 at the BB&T Center in Sunrise. 

Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EST. The game will be broadcast on Sportsnet East and RDS, as well as on TSN Radio 690 and 98,5 fm.

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