PANTHERS (3-5-0) at CANADIENS (7-2-1)
TV – FSN-Florida; CBC, RDS (HD)
Season series – The Eastern Conference rivals are playing for the first time this season. Montreal went 3-1-0 last season and won both games at the Bell Centre, where the Panthers have dropped their last four visits.
Panthers – A visit to Montreal, where the Canadiens have won their last four games, isn’t the ideal way to end a three-game swing through Eastern Canada for the Panthers that has included a controversial 3-1 loss at Toronto and disappointing 5-3 defeat at Ottawa in which they scored first but then surrendered five unanswered goals.
"I don't think we had very much jump and they were firing," defenseman Dennis Wideman said. "I thought they moved the puck really, really well. They broke out well and they came at us and we were just a step behind the whole night."
Canadiens – The NHL’s best team (15 points, four wins in a row) might be even better on Saturday. Andrei Markov, the Canadiens’ best defenseman, is likely to make his season debut against the Panthers. He hasn’t played since tearing up his knee during the playoffs in May.
"He's obviously a huge part of this team," said goaltender Alex Auld who beat the Islanders in his first start of the season. "I know from facing the team with him on it over the years, he really makes this power play tick. He's a special type of player and bringing him into the lineup will be great and obviously being able to rack up the points without him is even better and then we can just keep going."
Who’s hot – David Booth has 3 goals and 5 points in the Panthers’ last five games. Marty Reasoner, who had 17 points in 80 games for Atlanta last season, has 7 in eight games for the Panthers this season. … Montreal’s Andrei Kostitsyn has 4 goals and 6 points in the Canadiens’ last four games despite being kept off the scoresheet on Friday.
Injury report – The Panthers report no major injuries. … With Markov back in the lineup, the Canadiens will be at full strength for the first tine this season.
Stat pack – Don’t be surprised if the Panthers opt to go with Scott Clemmensen over Tomas Vokoun in goal. Clemmensen has won all three of his career decisions against the Canadiens, while Vokoun is 4-7-1-2 in 16 appearances against the team that drafted him.
Puck drop – The Bell Centre boobirds were serenading Carey Price in the first week of the season after the Canadiens dropped two of their first three. But Price has been solid in goal since then; he owns a 6-2-1 record and has (for now, at least) quieted any talk that the Canadiens made a mistake keeping him and dealing playoff hero Jaroslav Halak to St. Louis during the summer.