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At the Rink: Canadiens at Panthers

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Montreal Canadiens make their annual Christmastime visit to BB&T?Center on Tuesday night, but this matchup against the Florida Panthers (7:30 p.m. ET; RDS, SNE, FS-F) will have a different element: First place in the Atlantic Division will be on the line.

The Canadiens (21-14-3), who have goalie Ben Scrivens making his NHL season debut one day after being acquired via trade from the Edmonton Oilers,???lead the division with 45 points after ending a six-game losing streak Monday with a 4-3 shootout victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Panthers (20-12-4)???will enter the game one point behind the Canadiens while looking to extend their six-game winning streak, their longest since the team won seven in a row in March 2008.

"It's got a little extra special meaning tonight just because of the standings right now, but at the end of the day it's a regular-season game," Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo said. "We want the two points; it doesn't matter who we're facing. We don't want it to get too overwhelming. We just want to just play our game, keep the standings quiet right now and not put too much attention on ourselves and just keep winning."

The Canadiens ended their longest losing streak since October 2011 when forward Dale Weise tied the game against Tampa Bay in the third period and captain Max Pacioretty scored the game-winner in the shootout.

It was the first time in seven games the Canadiens scored more than two goals.

Montreal did not have a morning skate Tuesday, although the expected scratches as well as Scrivens and goalie Mike Condon took to the ice.

Scrivens is 3-1-0 with a 1.84 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage in five games against the Panthers.

Florida has won the first three games of its six-game homestand, beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 in its last game Sunday when Aleksander Barkov scored two goals.

Florida has given up fewer than two goals four times during its winning streak and will enter the game against Montreal having allowed a league-low 17 goals in the first period.

"We're just trying to play well defensively the whole game,"???forward Jonathan Huberdeau said. "It's been working. We're playing good five-man hockey defensively and our goalies are doing the job too."

Luongo and Huberdeau are Montreal natives, and Huberdeau's family made its annual vacation road trip to South Florida in their RV.

For the second consecutive year, Huberdeau's sister Josiane will sing the Canadian national anthem before a Canadiens-Panthers game.

"It's going to be a fun night,"???Huberdeau said. "I???always enjoy playing the (holiday matchup) here. It's going to be a fun night. No pressure. It's just going out there, have fun like I always do. It's going to be fun and I can't wait to hear my sister sing."

The Panthers have played host to the Canadiens between Dec. 28 and Dec. 31 every year since 2005, except for the shortened 2012-13 season.

This will be the first of four games this season. Montreal won four of the five games last season, including one in overtime and one in a shootout. All five games were decided by one goal.

Here are the projected lines:


Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Dale Weise

Lars Eller - Alex Galchenyuk - Daniel Carr

Tomas Fleischmann - Tomas Plekanec - Sven Andrighetto

Paul Byron - Torrey Mitchell - Brian Flynn

Nathan Beaulieu - P.K. Subban

Andrei Markov - Jeff Petry

Mark Barberio - Greg Pateryn

Ben Scrivens

Mike Condon

Injured: Carey Price (lower body), Tom Gilbert (lower body), Brendan Gallagher (fingers)

Scratched:?????????Devante Smith-Pelly, Jarred Tinordi, Alexei Emelin


Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Jaromir Jagr

Jussi Jokinen - Vincent Trocheck - Reilly Smith

Brandon Pirri - Derek MacKenzie - Logan Shaw

Quinton Howden - Corban Knight - Connor Brickley

Brian Campbell - Erik Gudbranson

Dmitry Kulikov - Aaron Ekblad

Willie Mitchell - Alex Petrovic

Roberto Luongo

Al Montoya

Injured: Nick Bjugstad (upper body), Steven Kampfer (lower body), Dave Bolland (lower body)

Scratched:?????????Shawn Thornton

Status report: Plekanec will play his 800th game for the Canadiens. … Gallagher will miss his 17th game because of a finger injury. … Bjugstad, who will miss his 14th game because of migraines, took part in the morning skate, but Gallant said he likely would miss the remaining games of the homestand, Saturday against the New York Rangers and Sunday against the Minnesota Wild. … Bolland, who has been sidelined since returning from a conditioning assignment with the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League, is listed as day-to-day.

Who's hot: Galchenyuk has two goals and two assists during a four-game point streak. … Carr, a rookie called up from St. John's of the AHL on Nov. 29, had three goals in the past five games. … Ekblad had two goals in the past three games. … Huberdeau has one goal and seven assists in the past eight games. … Barkov had three goals and four assists in the past six games. … Jagr has 88 points (41 goals, 47 assists) in 79 games against Montreal.

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