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Lightning look to build Atlantic lead vs. Canadiens

Tampa Bay holds first place over Florida with tiebreaker

by Corey Long / NHL.com Correspondent

CANADIENS (35-36-6) at LIGHTNING (44-27-5)

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET; RDS, SNE, SUN, NHL.TV

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning will try to keep their hold of first place in the Atlantic Division as their six-game homestand continues against the Montreal Canadiens at Amalie Arena on Thursday.

Tampa Bay is tied with the Florida Panthers at 93 points, but the Lightning hold the tiebreaker with more regulation plus overtime wins (41-35). The Panthers host the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.

The Lightning are 3-1-0 on their homestand following a 3-0 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday. Tampa Bay was limited to 18 shots, which tied a season low.

"I think when we looked at the Toronto game we realized we were trying to do a little too much," forward Alex Killorn said. "We have to remember that the simple play can lead to the good play and just continue to work to get the puck to the net."

Forwards Nikita Kucherov and Ryan Callahan will be game-time decisions Thursday, though coach Jon Cooper expects each to play against Montreal, which has been eliminated from playoff contention.

"This is a team we've faced in the playoffs the last two years so there's some history there," Lightning goalie Ben Bishop said. "They've beaten us a couple of times this season and they've got some young guys that are looking forward to this opportunity to fight for their jobs."

Montreal is 2-0-0 against the Lightning this season, winning 4-3 in a shootout on Dec. 28 at Amalie Arena and 4-2 on Feb. 9 at the Bell Centre.

"For the guys it's always a reminder of what happened last year in the playoffs," coach Michel Therrien said of Montreal's six-game loss to Tampa Bay in the 2015 Eastern Conference Second Round. "So when we play them this year we have something to prove."

Mike Condon (19-23-6) starts in goal for the Canadiens. Bishop (33-19-4) makes his 59th start of the season for the Lightning.

Here are the projected started lineups:

CANADIENS

Max Pacioretty - Alex Galchenyuk - Paul Byron

Lars Eller - Tomas Plekanec - Torrey Mitchell

Sven Andrighetto - David Desharnais - Phillip Danault

Jacob De La Rose - Michael McCarron - Stefan Matteau

Andrei Markov - Alexei Emelin

Nathan Beaulieu - Greg Pateryn

Joel Hanley - Darren Dietz

Mike Condon

Charlie Lindgren

Injured: Lucas Lessio (lower body); P.K. Subban (neck); Victor Bartley (lower body); Mark Barberio (upper body); Brendan Gallagher (lower body); Brian Flynn (lower body); Daniel Carr (lower body); Jeff Petry (lower body); Carey Price (lower body); Tom Gilbert (lower body)

Scratched: Mike Brown

LIGHTNING

Alex Killorn - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Jonathan Marchessault

Cedric Paquette - Valtteri Filppula - Ryan Callahan

Vladislav Namestnikov - Brian Boyle - J.T. Brown
 
Victor Hedman - Matthew Carle

Jason Garrison - Andrej Sustr

Braydon Coburn - Nikita Nesterov

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Injured: Anton Stralman (fractured fibula)

Scratched: Erik Condra, Mike Blunden, Slater Koekkoek

Status report: Price practiced with the Canadiens for the first time since Nov. 25 and split time with Lindgren, who signed Wednesday. Therrien said there is a possibility Price will play again this season. ... Cooper said placing Marchessault on the second line has raised the game of Johnson and Palat. "He is a guy that can play fast with them," Cooper said. ... Subban, Gallagher, Flynn and Carr also took the ice with the Canadiens during the morning skate.

Who's hot: Stamkos has three goals and four assists in the past five games. ... Pacioretty has three goals in the past three games.

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