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Lightning host Canadiens, go for six in a row

by Brian Hunter

CANADIENS (22-13-3) at LIGHTNING (23-11-3)


Last 10: Montreal 6-4-0; Tampa Bay 7-1-2

Season series: This is the second of four games between the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning. Valtteri Filppula had the decisive shootout goal as Tampa Bay won 2-1 in Montreal on Nov. 12. Carey Price made a season-high 44 saves in a losing effort for the Habs.

Big story: The Lightning suffered through the expected dip after losing Steven Stamkos to a broken leg, but they come out of the Christmas break on a five-game winning streak and back in the hunt not only for a Stanley Cup Playoff berth but the Atlantic Division title. The Canadiens, meanwhile, are just two points behind the Bolts for second place.

Team Scope:

Canadiens: A six-game road trip resumes for Montreal, which had the longest break of any team. When the Canadiens take the ice at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, it will have been seven days since their 4-3 overtime win against the Nashville Predators, a game that saw them blow a 3-0 lead before David Desharnais scored 1:43 into the extra period.

The rest seems to have done several injured Canadiens well, as Montreal Gazette writer Pat Hickey reported that defenseman Josh Gorges (lower body) appeared healthy at practice on Friday while forward George Parros (concussion) was skating as an extra forward. Gorges was hurt blocking a shot Dec. 19 in St. Louis.

"He's such a warrior and he wanted to play but I made the decision because I didn't think he could compete," coach Michel Therrien said in the Gazette about holding Gorges out against the Predators.

Lightning: The offense has clicked for nearly four goals per game during the current winning streak, as Tampa Bay proves it has plenty of weapons even without No. 91 in the lineup.

Ben Bishop, meanwhile, already has more wins in less than half a season (20 in 28 games) than he had for his entire career entering 2013-14 (18 in 45 games). With the United States' roster for the 2014 Sochi Olympics set to be announced Jan. 1 at the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, there's still time for Bishop to put a final exclamation point on the statement he's made these past three months.

"It'd be a huge honor, something that nobody can take away from you," Bishop said in the Tampa Bay Times. "It'd be pretty cool to say that you're an Olympian. I'm just trying to play my best right now and make it a hard decision on them."

Who's hot: Desharnais has one goal and three assists during a three-game point streak for the Canadiens. Max Pacioretty has four goals in the past five games. … Filppula has three goals and five assists during a five-game point streak for the Lightning. Martin St. Louis has three goals and four assists during a five-game point streak. Alex Killorn has two goals and two assists during a three-game point streak. Victor Hedman has one goal and four assists during a three-game point streak.

Injury report: Montreal could get Gorges (lower body) back, while the timetable on Parros (concussion) is less clear. Defenseman Davis Drewiske (shoulder) is on injured reserve. … In addition to Stamkos, missing for Tampa Bay are defenseman Keith Aulie (hand) and forward Ryan Malone (ankle). Defensemen Eric Brewer (arm) and Sami Salo (upper body) are day-to-day.

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