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Canadiens drop in on Luongo-less Panthers

by John Kreiser

CANADIENS (42-26-7) at PANTHERS (27-39-8)


Last 10: Montreal 7-3-0; Florida 3-6-1

Season series: It's the fourth and final game between the Montreal Canadiens and Florida Panthers. The Panthers won the first two before Montreal beat them 2-1 at Bell Centre on Jan. 6.

Big story: The Canadiens bring a four-game winning streak to South Florida, and they've needed every point in their effort to hold off the Tampa Bay Lightning in the battle for second place in the Atlantic Division. The Panthers are looking toward next season after being eliminated from the race for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Team Scope:

Canadiens: The Canadiens have road victories against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings during their winning streak. But coach Michel Therrien spent part of practice on Friday addressing the errors that forced the Canadiens to hang on for a 5-4 victory in Detroit the night before.

"We've executed really well and we've played with confidence and that's why we won those big games on the road," Therrien told the media. "In Detroit, we had some breakdowns and that's what we addressed at practice today. Usually, this team doesn't give up as many goals and as many scoring chances. We lost our focus a few times, but every time they scored we responded in the right way."

The Canadiens may be without center Tomas Plekanec, who remained in Detroit to deal with what Therrien called "a family matter," according to the Montreal Gazette. Plekanec reached the 20-goal mark by scoring twice against the Red Wings.

Panthers: Montreal native Roberto Luongo will be on the sidelines when the Canadiens come to BB&T Center after being run over by Carolina Hurricanes forward Radek Dvorak on Thursday night. Luongo left the game with a sore neck, and coach Peter Horachek told the media Friday that Luongo won't dress against Montreal.

"It's not long term at this point," Horachek said. "He's just out for [Saturday], and we're going to leave it at day-by-day."

The Panthers recalled Scott Clemmensen from San Antonio of the American Hockey League to back up Dan Ellis, who finished out the 3-0 loss to Carolina and is slated to start against Montreal.

Who's hot: Forward Thomas Vanek, acquired by Montreal from the New York Islanders at the NHL Trade Deadline, had a goal and two assists in the win at Detroit, giving him five goals and eight points in his past six games. … Florida rookie Vincent Trocheck has points in two of his past three games.

Injury report: The Canadiens are missing forwards Travis Moen (concussion), Dale Weise (hand) and Brandon Prust (upper body), as well as defenseman Josh Gorges (broken hand). … in addition to Luongo, Florida is without defensemen Tom Gilbert (season-ending groin injury) and Alex Petrovic (upper body), and forward Aleksander Barkov (knee), Tomas Kopecky (upper body) and Jonathan Huberdeau (upper body).

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