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Game Preview: Canadiens @ Panthers

The Canadiens can clinch the Atlantic Division title with a win on Monday night in South Florida

by Montreal Canadiens @canadiensmtl / canadiens.com

Canadiens (45-24-9, 99 points) @ Panthers (33-34-11, 77 points)

The Canadiens could lock up their second Atlantic Division title in three years on Monday night when they take on the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center in Sunrise.

Should Claude Julien's contingent post their fifth straight win, that would seal the deal. It would also ensure that the Canadiens will battle the higher-ranked wild card in the opening round of the playoffs. That just happens to be the New York Rangers, whom they previously squared off against in the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals. The Rangers locked up the top wild card position on Sunday night with a win over the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden.

Only the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators remain within striking distance of the Canadiens for top spot in the Atlantic as both squads sit at 91 points with five games left on their respective schedules. 

The Habs enter Monday night's action holding an eight-point advantage over the two Ontario-based franchises with 99 points on the year. They only have four games to go, though, so from a mathematical standpoint they can still be caught.

Shea Weber didn't skate with the rest of his teammates on Monday. Weber is sidelined with a lower-body injury and will miss the next two games. He is returning to Montreal for precautionary reasons. Nikita Nesterov will take his spot in the lineup on the back end.

Meanwhile, Charlie Lindgren will get the start in goal against the Panthers. It will mark his first start with the big club since April 7, 2016 when he bested the Hurricanes in Carolina.

Steve Ott also returns to the lineup after a one-game absence as a healthy scratch in favor of Michael McCarron.

On Saturday night, Alexander Radulov lifted the Canadiens to a dramatic 2-1 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena. The Russian sniper struck just 51 seconds into the extra frame, capping a tape-to-tape cross-ice feed from captain Max Pacioretty with his 17th goal of the season. Phillip Danault also scored, and Pacioretty picked up the assist on that marker as well, reaching the 200-assist plateau for his career in the process.

Video: Radulov buries OT winner as Habs beat Lightning, 2-1

Five days ago, the Canadiens downed the Panthers by a score of 6-2 at the Bell Centre to officially clinch a playoff berth. Since then, Florida has only played once, falling 5-2 to the Bruins on Saturday night at TD Garden in Boston. Tom Rowe's club enters the contest on a four-game losing streak.

Following the game in South Florida, the Canadiens will make their way to Buffalo on Tuesday where they'll take on the Sabres on Wednesday night at the KeyBank Center before returning to Montreal.

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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