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Lightning desperate for a win as Canadiens hit town

by Arpon Basu

CANADIENS (15-5-4) at LIGHTNING (10-13-1)


Last 10: Montreal 6-1-3; Tampa Bay 3-7-0

Season series: This is the second of three meetings between the clubs, and the final one in Tampa. The Canadiens handed the Lightning a 4-3 shootout loss in Tampa on Feb. 12.

Big story: The Canadiens continue to coast along on their surprising perch atop the Eastern Conference, while the Lightning suddenly see their chances of participating in the Stanley Cup Playoffs becoming dimmer with every loss. The urgency level in this game, therefore, tilts in favor of the Bolts.

Team Scope:

Canadiens: Goaltender Carey Price put in some extra work during an off day to prepare for his next game against the Carolina Hurricanes after allowing 12 goals on 59 shots in his previous two starts. Whatever he did worked, as Price stopped 42 shots to backstop the Canadiens to a 4-2 win in Raleigh on Thursday night. That game featured the line of Lars Eller, Brandon Prust and Alex Galchenyuk leading the way offensively, with both Prust and Eller notching a goal and two assists.

It has become a Canadiens strength this season that any one of their top three lines is capable of taking charge of a game, making decisions difficult for opposing coaches on how to deploy their top defenders. A different line has led the team's offense in each of the last three games, with the unit of David Desharnais, Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher accounting for three goals in a 4-3 win in Boston on Sunday, and the line of Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta and Michael Ryder scoring twice in a 6-3 loss to the Islanders on Tuesday.

Lightning: The Lightning are in serious trouble of falling right out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture after a 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday dropped Tampa's record to 4-12-1 since starting the season with a 6-1-0 record. The Lightning entered Friday night's games seven points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and just two points out of last place.

Star center Steven Stamkos told the Tampa Bay Times after the loss to the Jets that he figured his team needed anywhere between 15 and 17 wins in their final 24 games if they hope to play playoff hockey.

"We have to think there are a number of points that it's going to take to be in the playoffs," he told the Times, "or we're going to be out quick."

The Lightning have had trouble scoring of late, putting up just one goal in three of their last six games. The power play has gone completely dry over a stretch where the team has lost six of seven games, entering this game against Montreal on an 0-for-8 run over its last three games and 3-for-27 over its last seven.

Who's hot: For the Canadiens, defenseman P.K. Subban is riding a five-game point streak, with three goals and four assists over that span, and he has actually managed to get at least a point in 12 of the 18 games he's played this season. With his sixth goal against Carolina on Thursday, Subban moved into a tie for the League lead among defensemen in that category. …For the Lightning, Stamkos has been just about as consistent a scorer as anyone could be, scoring goals in nine of his last 11 games. He has 11 goals and six assists over that span.

Injury report: The Canadiens are missing defenseman Raphael Diaz and right wing Rene Bourque, both out with concussions, while center Petteri Nokelainen (lower body) still has not played this season. … The Lightning have forward Benoit Pouliot (upper body) on injured reserve and goaltender Mathieu Garon is out with a lower-body injury.

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