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Canadiens-Lightning Preview @NHLdotcom

The Montreal Canadiens spent the weekend saluting their former stars in an All-Star weekend celebration that also featured several of their current standouts.

A potential future Canadiens center got a bit of attention, too.

After receiving a warm hometown welcome amid rumors he may be traded to Montreal, Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier still won't be able to escape the hype when he returns to his professional home, as the Canadiens begin the second half at Tampa Bay on Tuesday night.

The Eastern Conference's starting lineup for Sunday's All-Star game at Bell Centre was well-stocked with Canadiens, including game MVP Alex Kovalev. Former Montreal greats including Guy Lafleur and Jean Beliveau were also recognized in the 100th season for the NHL's most storied franchise.

The fans didn't forget about Lecavalier, who grew up in the Montreal area. He received an ovation louder than anyone else during Saturday night's SuperSkills competition, and started Sunday's game in place of injured Pittsburgh star Sidney Crosby.

While rumors have persisted that Lecavalier could be on the trading block with Montreal as a suitor, the Lightning continue to deny such speculation. Lecavalier himself said over the weekend that he believes he'll finish the season with his current team.

"I think I will, but in the end, it's not up to me to answer a question like that because it's a bit out of my control," said Lecavalier, who leads his team with 21 goals. "A lot of things have been said over the last few weeks."

The rumors sprouted from Tampa Bay's dismal 6-14-8 start, which included the firing of first-year coach Barry Melrose. The Lightning (16-21-10) have since shown plenty of improvement under interim coach Rick Tocchet, going 9-5-1 to close the first half and winning their last two games before the break.

Lecavalier had two goals and an assist in a 4-2 victory over Dallas on Jan. 19, which Tampa Bay followed with a 5-3 home win over Buffalo last Wednesday. The Lightning beat the Sabres even though neither Lecavalier nor Martin St. Louis had a point.

"Vinny and Marty carry this team all year," center Jeff Halpern said. "Even if they don't get points or score, I thought those guys tilted the ice for us at times when the other team was pushing. I think the way our team is playing these last few weeks, we're getting goals as a team."

Montreal, meanwhile, entered the break with consecutive losses, including a 5-2 defeat at New Jersey last Wednesday. All-Star Carey Price allowed four goals on 33 shots in that game, his first start since Dec. 30 after dealing with an ankle injury.

Despite an 11-2-1 stretch from Dec. 18-Jan. 17, the Canadiens (27-13-6) trail Boston by 13 points in the Northeast Division, one season after top-seeded Montreal eliminated the Bruins in seven games in the first round of the playoffs.

Still, high hopes remain for a record 25th Stanley Cup title in the franchise's centennial season.

"There is so much history here," Kovalev said. "History is this club, and you want to be a part of it. That's why it's important to me."

It will certainly help having Saku Koivu back. The captain missed 17 games due to an ankle injury, but returned against New Jersey. He suffered the injury in a 3-1 loss to the Lightning on Dec. 11.

Tampa Bay has earned three points from two meetings with Montreal this season, although the Canadiens took a 2-1 shootout win at the St. Pete Times forum on Dec. 30.

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