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Canadiens always feel at home playing in Florida

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Montreal Canadiens will not travel farther to face an opponent this season than BB&T Center, where they play the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.

In terms of atmosphere, though, it might be the closest thing the Canadiens have to a home game away from home.

As is always the case when the Canadiens play in Sunrise, a large crowd is expected Thursday and it's a safe bet a good portion of those in attendance will be wearing Montreal jerseys and rooting for the road team.

"We're very lucky to get as much support as we do when we come down here," Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban said. "It's great to see. The Montreal Canadiens organization has been around for a very long time, the fan base is spread out throughout the world, but it is a little surprising to come here and see so many fans show up."

The past four Montreal visits to the BB&T Center, and seven of the past 10, produced sellouts. Last year marked the first time in seven seasons the Panthers' best home crowd wasn't for a game against the Canadiens -- a Toronto Maple Leafs visit on Dec. 27, 2011 held that distinction.

It makes for a unique experience for Canadiens players.

"It's fun when we score, people are happy," center David Desharnais said. "It's a little bit like playing at home."

Florida won both home games against Montreal last season when it recorded their first season sweep in the series.

The Canadiens, who won the teams' first meeting this season, 4-1 at Bell Centre on Jan. 22, will be back at BB&T Center on March 14.

"It's always special to come play here in Sunrise because there are a lot of snowbirds that are here," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "It always makes for an interesting game."

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