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Canadiens aim to turn things around vs. Panthers

by Eric Goodman

PANTHERS (16-20-6) at CANADIENS (24-14-5)


Last 10: Florida 6-3-1; Montreal 5-3-2

Season series: This is the thrid of four games between these Atlantic Division teams. The Florida Panthers beat the Montreal Canadiens the two previous games with a 2-1 win at Bell Centre on Dec. 15 and a 4-1 home victory on Dec. 29.

Big story: The Panthers have proven to be a tough draw for the Canadiens recently with a 7-2-0 record over their past nine games against Montreal. The Canadiens will look to break out of a cold streak with losses in three of their past four games (1-1-2), including the defeat at BB&T Center on Dec. 29.

Team Scope:

Panthers: Florida (38 points) has a steep hill to climb in its attempt to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but can start the move up the Eastern Conference standings by building off a 5-4 shootout home win against the Nashville Predators on Saturday. The Panthers gave up a goal to Nashville center Paul Gaustad in the final minute of the third period, but Florida right wing Tomas Kopecky sealed it with the winning goal in the sixth round of the shootout.

Florida interim coach Peter Horachek had a personal stake Saturday when he faced his former Predator team in Nashville for the first time, following 10 seasons as an assistant for coach Barry Trotz. But Horachek was more focused on his current club than he was in reuniting with old friends on the opposing bench.

"We just take the points and move forward," said Horachek. "It feels good to beat [the Predators]. I wish them all the best after tonight."

Canadiens: With losses in three of its past four home games (1-2-1); Montreal kept it lighthearted Sunday due to a rare open practice at Bell Centre in front of thousands of Canadiens fans. In addition to the typical drills, fans were treated to a skills competition with some Quebec celebrities, as well as a Novice A game between two local rival clubs.

Forward George Parros was a guest judge for the skills competition and gave an update on his status recovering from a concussion following the fan practice.

"I’ve done some light contact and that’s the next step along the way," said Parros. "I'm taking it day-by-day and we’re getting towards the end but I don't have any particular day in mind."

Who's Hot: For Florida, 18-year-old rookie forward Aleksander Barkov now leads the team with 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists) thanks to a current five-game point streak (one goal, five assists). ... Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban (two goals, four assists) and forward Max Pacioretty (four goals, two assists) totaled six points each over their past three games.

Injury Report: Defensemen Erik Gudbranson (orbital bone), Dylan Olsen (lower body) and Alex Petrovic (upper body) and forward Jesse Winchester (hand) are on injured reserve for the Panthers. Gudbranson will make the trip to Montreal and is possible to return, while Olsen, Petrovic and Winchester will stay home. ... The Canadiens are without defenseman Davis Drewiske (on injured reserve with shoulder injury) and Parros. Forward Ryan White missed the game Saturday against the rival Ottawa Senators with an upper-body injury and did not skate in practice Sunday.

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