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Bolts, Habs ready to finish season series

by Sergei J. Feldman
LIGHTNING (39-22-9) at CANADIENS (38-25-7)


Last 10: Tampa Bay 4-4-2; Montreal 7-3-0.

Season series: The Lightning and Canadiens close out their four-game season series. After taking the first two games against the Canadiens — one of which was an overtime win — t he Lightning have a chance to take three of four on the season.

Big story: In the midst of a four-game road trip, the Lightning still hope to catch the red-hot Washington Capitals and capture the Southeast Division title despite winning just four of their past 10 games. Meanwhile, the Canadiens, who are 7-3-0 in their past 10 efforts, have a division chase of their own, trailing Boston by just four points in the Northeast Division.

Team scope:

Lightning: After dropping a game to the Florida Panthers, 4-3, in overtime to start the road trip, the Lightning responded with a strong effort against a hungry Toronto team, winning 6-2. This time of year, every stretch of hockey is important, and for the Lightning that's no exception. While a great team on home ice, they've won just one road game in four tries in March. The Lightning will certainly be tested again when they skate into Montreal to play against one of the League’s best team at home. Still, the Lightning hope their recent dominant win over the Leafs can carry over some momentum against the Habs.

"We've been emphasizing this type of play for the last three games," Lightning assistant coach Wayne Fleming said following the win over Toronto. "Our plan was to be direct to the net and strong on the puck."

Canadiens: While the Lightning have lost some ground in the East of late, the Habs have been one of the League's hottest teams at the right time of the year. After an impressive road shutout win in Pittsburgh, though, the Habs dropped a 4-2 decision to Washington at the Bell Centre. Despite the loss, the Habs felt they left one on the table.

"We could have stolen one tonight," left wing Michael Cammalleri said. "[Habs goalie Carey Price was] the biggest reason and we had some almost-chances and I just think it was probably indicative of our game overall, just not good enough everywhere and one of those areas was capitalizing on offensive chances."

Who's hot: After going through a four-game pointless dry spell, Lightning sniper Steven Stamkos is in the midst of a five-game point scoring streak. Meanwhile, Habs leading scorer Tomas Plekanec has four points in his past five games, but is day-to-day with a lower body injury.

Injury report: In addition to Plekanec, Jeff Halpern (lower body, day-to-day), Brent Sopel (hand, day-to-day) join the Habs' injury list, while Steve Downie and Randy Jones are both day-to-day with ankle injuries.

Stat pack: With 43 goals and 43 assists on the year, Stamkos is on pace for a second-consecutive 50-goal campaign and first 100-point season.

Puck drop: Habs defenseman Roman Hamrlik will play in his 1,300th NHL game against the Lightning -- the team that drafted him 1st overall in 1992, during their inaugural season.

"It's a special thing to be able to play for the Canadiens in front 21,000 cheering fans in a city that lives and dies by hockey," Hamrlik said. "I love this city, I'm comfortable here. It's too soon to start talking about the future but after four years, this has become my second home."

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