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Gallant faces former team as Panthers play Canadiens

by Alain Poupart

CANADIENS (23-11-2) at PANTHERS (16-9-8)


SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida Panthers coach Gerard Gallant will be facing his former team for the first time Tuesday when the Montreal Canadiens come to BB&T?Center for their traditional holiday visit.

Gallant was an assistant coach for the Canadiens the past two seasons before being hired by the Panthers on June 21.

"It'll be good,"???Gallant said after the Panthers' optional morning skate. "The coaching staff and the staff over there, I???know them real well, and some of the players. Obviously it's nice to see those people back, good people I had a great time with."

The Panthers are expecting a sellout crowd, which is not surprising considering the Canadiens' annual visit around Christmastime almost always produces their largest home attendance of the season.

Florida (16-9-8) will be going for its first three-game winning streak of the season after starting its four-game holiday homestand with victories against the Pittsburgh Penguins (4-3 in a shootout)???and the Toronto Maple Leafs (6-4).

Against Toronto on Sunday, Florida scored four unanswered goals in the third period to rally in front of a capacity crowd that included a large percentage of Maple Leafs fans.

Florida has won the past two times Montreal visited in late December, including a 4-1 victory last season when Gallant was on the other bench.

"Last year coming in with Montreal you know what's going to happen,"???Gallant said. "A???big part of the crowd is going to be for Montreal, but it wasn't much different than Toronto the other night. We're just happy to see people in our building and working hard. As long as our team is playing well, that's our main goal."

Florida will go into the game unbeaten in regulation at home in its past seven games (6-0-1). Since losing 4-1 against the Minnesota Wild at BB&T???Center on Nov. 24, the Panthers are 9-3-3. They wrap up their homestand Wednesday against the New York Rangers.

The game Tuesday will be the third of a season-long five-game road trip for the Canadiens (23-11-2), who defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 on Monday. Carey Price made 28 saves in his 11th consecutive start.

Three Canadiens, including backup goalie Dustin Tokarski, who will start, stepped onto the ice Tuesday.

Here are the projected lineups:


Max Pacioretty - Alex Galchenyuk - Brendan Gallagher

David Desharnais - Tomas Plekanec - Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau

Jiri Sekac - Lars Eller - Brandon Prust

Sven Andrighetto - Michael Bournival - Dale Weise

Andrei Markov - P.K. Subban

Nathan Beaulieu - Sergei Gonchar

Alexei Emelin - Tom Gilbert

Dustin Tokarski

Carey Price

Scratched: Bryan Allen, Mike Weaver, Manny Malhotra

Injured: None


Jonathan Huberdeau - Nick Bjugstad - Vincent Trocheck

Jussi Jokinen - Dave Bolland - Brad Boyes

Sean Bergenheim - Aleksander Barkov - Jimmy Hayes

Scottie Upshall - Derek MacKenzie - Tomas Fleischmann

Willie Mitchell - Dmitry Kulikov

Brian Campbell - Aaron Ekblad

Dylan Olsen - Erik Gudbranson

Roberto Luongo

Al Montoya

Scratched:?????????Brandon Pirri

Injured: Tomas Kopecky (upper body), Shawn Thornton (lower body)

Status report: Thornton, who hasn't played since Dec. 6, skated Tuesday but Gallant said he was still a ways away. ... Kopecky is day-to-day with an injury he sustained against Toronto on Sunday. ... Weaver has not played since returning from a concussion Dec. 23. ... Bournival was a healthy scratch the past three games.

Who's hot:?????????Price has given up one goal in each of his past three starts and two or fewer in each of his past seven. ... Gallagher has four goals in his past nine games. ... Hayes scored three goals in the past two games after being a healthy scratch Dec. 20 against the Penguins. ... Bergenheim has three assists in his past two games.

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