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Habs to face rested Flyers in Philadelphia

by Bill Meltzer
Over the course of the long NHL season, every team periodically finds itself in situations where it plays on back-to-back nights and faces a rested opponent in the second game. That’s the situation the Montreal Canadiens are in tonight as they take on the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center.

The Flyers took a complete day off Friday after a 2-1 shootout victory Thursday over the Capitals. The Habs, meanwhile, downed the Ottawa Senators 5-1 and then flew to Philadelphia.

Mired in the Eastern Conference cellar, the Canadiens have little but personal pride to play for at this point of the regular season. To the credit of the players and coach Randy Cunneyworth, the club has managed to compile points in seven of the last eight games (4-1-3).

Last night, the club dealt a significant setback to the rival Senators. Erik Cole is coming off a game in which he scored a natural hat trick, while Lars Eller and Petteri Nokalainen had single tallies. Saturday, the Habs will attempt to delay Philadelphia from clinching a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The fifth-seeded Flyers will be guaranteed a playoff berth with a victory of any kind (regulation, overtime or shootout) over the Canadiens, or with some help against Winnipeg and Buffalo.

The Canadiens did not conduct a morning skate in Philadelphia. Goaltender Peter Budaj could make just his 13th appearance of the regular season. Workhorse starter Carey Price made 37 saves Friday night. Price has started all three previous games against Philadelphia this season.

With one exception, the Flyers practiced on Saturday morning with the same line combinations used in the Washington game.  Veteran defenseman Andreas Lilja, who took a puck to the throat in Boston last Saturday and missed one game before returning for the last two, did not participate in the morning skate. The club has recalled defenseman Erik Gustafsson from the AHL’s Adirondack Phantoms. Paired with Pavel  Kubina, Gustafsson skated in place of Lilja.

Ilya Bryzgalov is slated to make his 17th start in the Flyers’ last 18 games. For the month of March, he has twice collected First Star of the Week honors, while sporting a 9-1-1 record, 1.24 goals against average and .954 save percentage.

On Thursday, Laviolette made changes on three of the team’s four forward lines, most notably putting Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds on a line with Danny Briere despite the fact that all three players have been mired in lengthy goal-scoring slumps.

The trio generated several scoring chances in the last game, although it did not score a goal. In the climactic shootout, however, Simmonds potted the game-winning tally.

“To put Danny back with a couple guys that he’s been with in the past, he’s been with [Simmonds] in the past, and see if they can’t catch a little bit of fire,” Laviolette explained on Thursday. “I’d like to keep it together and see if they can build on [last game]. You never know, it could be that goal or that one big game that gets the line going where they get some confidence and get some chemistry and get jumping.”

Here are the projected lineups:

FLYERS

Scott HartnellClaude GirouxJaromir Jagr
Brayden Schenn –  Danny BriereWayne Simmonds
Matt Read –  Max Talbot – Jakub Voracek
Eric WellwoodSean CouturierZac Rinaldo

Matt CarleKimmo Timonen
Nicklas GrossmannBraydon Coburn
Erik GustafssonPavel Kubina

Ilya Bryzgalov
Sergei Bobrovsky

CANADIENS

Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Rene Bourque - Tomas Plekanec - Lars Eller
Mike Blunden - Ryan White - Louis Leblanc
Brad Staubitz - Petteri Nokelainen - Aaron Palushaj

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Andrei Markov - Alexei Emelin
Chris Campoli - Yannick Weber

Peter Budaj
Carey Price
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