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Canadiens continue road trip against Panthers

by Brian Hunter
CANADIENS (34-23-7) at PANTHERS (26-30-7)

TV -- RDS (HD), TSN-HABS (HD), FS-Florida (HD)

Last 10 --
Montreal 4-4-2; Florida 3-6-1

Season series -- Fourth and final meeting of the season. Montreal has won two of three, including the previous game played in Florida, 3-2, on Dec. 31. James Wisniewski, who scored the overtime goal that night, has 2 goals and 5 points against the Panthers this season (including two games in which he faced them as a member of the Islanders).

Big story:
The flu has been about the only thing capable of keeping Canadiens goalie Carey Price from making his appointed rounds this season, and even that was only for one game. After he rested in Montreal's 4-3 win over Carolina on Saturday (though he still dressed as Alex Auld's backup), Price was back between the pipes on Tuesday making 40 saves in a 3-1 win over Atlanta. He remains among the NHL leaders in games, minutes, wins, shots faced, saves and shutouts.

Team Scope:

Canadiens -- With its opponent desperate for points, Montreal faced a stiff test in Atlanta and ended up being outshot 41-23 on the night. But the Canadiens chipped away for a couple goals as Max Pacioretty opened the scoring in the first period and Wisniewski capitalized on the power play less than a minute into the second. Price was nearly flawless, and after the Thrashers finally broke through late in the third, Brian Gionta sealed the victory with an empty-net goal.

"It was busy out there, but it wasn't a lot of hard shots," Price said. "We kept most of the shots outside. It's not hard to stop 40 shots when they're from the outside."

Panthers -- The season is starting to slip away in Florida, which cleaned house prior to Monday's trade deadline. The Panthers have remained competitive in nearly every game, but victories have eluded them of late. Such was the case again Tuesday in Carolina against the team they're chasing for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. The Hurricanes got the first two goals and held on to beat the Panthers 2-1, with a Stephen Weiss goal representing the visitors' only offense.

"I give ourselves an 'A' for effort," coach Peter DeBoer said. "With (ex-Panthers) Bryan Allen and Cory Stillman over there we knew they'd come out quickly and they did. But I thought our guys showed a lot of resiliency and probably deserved a better fate."

Who's hot --
Pacioretty has 6 goals in his last 10 games for the Canadiens. Andrei Kostitsyn has 2 goals and 3 assists during a four-game points streak.

Injury report --
Montreal defenseman Jaroslav Spacek will miss 4-6 weeks following arthroscopic knee surgery. He's on injured reserve along with forward Mathieu Darche (groin) and defensemen Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges, both of whom underwent season-ending knee surgery. … Florida forwards Rostislav Olesz (knee), Jack Skille (ankle), Ryan Carter (back), Evgeny Dadonov (hand) and Shawn Matthias (ankle) are on injured reserve.

Stat pack -- Auld has only played in 11 games this season but has both of the Canadiens' wins over the Panthers, posting a 1.94 goals-against average and .930 save percentage in two starts. … Tomas Vokoun has started all three games in the series for Florida and sports a 2.32 GAA and .946 save percentage. He's faced 129 shots, an average of 43 per game.

Puck drop -- Montreal bolstered its defense corps in the time leading up to the trade deadline by picking up Paul Mara and Brent Sopel, but avoided making any blockbuster deals, which Gionta saw as the right move.

"[The media] are looking at big moves to make a push, but sometimes it's the chemistry in the room with the guys you have that you believe in," Gionta told the Montreal Gazette. "You know they can get the job done. Just because there were no big moves doesn't mean you're not making a push. We're confident in the group we have."

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