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Canadiens want to avenge season sweep by Lightning

by Sean Farrell /

BROSSARD, Quebec -- The Montreal Canadiens had a team dinner Wednesday and sat down to watch and see who they would face in the Eastern Conference Second Round.

Montreal's players and coaches wined, dined and watched Game 7 of the first-round series between the Detroit Red Wings and the Tampa Bay Lightning after hitting the ice for the first time since closing their first-round series against the Ottawa Senators with a win in Game 6 on Sunday.

When all was said and done, the Canadiens learned they will host Tampa Bay in Game 1 at Bell Centre on Friday (7 p.m .ET; CBC, TVA Sports, NBCSN).

"That's going to be a huge challenge," Montreal coach Michel Therrien said after practice Thursday. "[Tampa Bay] is the best offensive team in the League and they proved it. They've got a lot of weapons offensively and they've got tremendous speed. We take a lot of pride about making sure that we're solid defensively, that we're taking speed away, and this is something for us we're going to have to focus on. We've got to make sure we play a really sound defensive game."

The Canadiens lost each of their five games against the Lightning this season, and they've lost eight of their past nine regular-season games against Tampa Bay. Montreal center Lars Eller was asked about those who might say "here we go again."

"OK, well, I guess maybe we just forfeit before it starts then. Should we do that?" Eller said. "We don't expect it to be easy. I expect it to be a hard-fought series. It may take seven [games], you don't know. It's two very good teams going at it. Momentum is going to swing back and forth."

Momentum between the two Atlantic Division rivals has swung back and forth between the regular season and the Stanley Cup Playoffs during the past two years. Tampa Bay has dominated Montreal for the past two regular seasons; the Canadiens swept the Lightning in their first-round series last spring.

"I think it was the same last year too," Eller said. "I think we lost three of four during the regular season and then we were able to play our best hockey when we played them in the playoffs. So the only thing I'm going to take from this is the regular season doesn't necessarily have an impact on what goes on during the playoffs, that's my two cents."

Canadiens forward Brandon Prust agreed that this is a great opportunity to wipe the slate clean from the regular season.

"That's exactly what we want to do," Prust said. "We want to come in hungry. They came in hungry this season because we swept them last year, and we're hungry now because they swept us this season, so we've got a lot to prove."

Tampa Bay led the NHL with 259 non-shootout goals scored; Montreal's 189 goals allowed (including shootouts) were the fewest in the East and tied the Chicago Blackhawks for the lowest total in the League.

"It's almost impossible to know the matchup," Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty said. "It would be easy to say they score goals and we play defense, but every game's a different story. We're trying to score goals, they're trying to play defense, so we just hope for us to compete our hardest for 60 minutes each game, that's all we can ask, and hope for a good result."

Prust said the Canadiens plan to stick to the game plan that allowed them to finish ahead of the Lightning during the season.

"Our main objective is playing really solid defensively and making sure we're eliminating turnovers, taking away their time and space in the defensive zone and going on offense as quick as possible," Prust said. "We don't want to run-and-gun and open up and look for 5-4 games; we're looking for low-scoring games like we normally do."

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