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Preview: Canadiens at Lightning

Tampa Bay looks to close ground in Eastern Conference wild-card chase; Montreal out to extend lead in Atlantic Division

by Corey Long / Correspondent

CANADIENS (44-24-9) at LIGHTNING (38-29-9)

7 p.m., ET; TVA Sports, CITY, SUN, NHL.TV


Canadiens team scope

The Montreal Canadiens, who have clinched a Stanley Cup Playoff berth, hope to extend their Atlantic Division lead. The Canadiens, 12-3-1 in their past 16 games, are six points ahead of the Ottawa Senators, who have one game in hand. Ottawa plays at the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday. The Canadiens will be without defenseman Jordie Benn and forward Torrey Mitchell; Benn will miss his second straight game with an upper-body injury, and Mitchell is out with the flu. Playing against the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are fighting for a playoff spot, should benefit the Canadiens, according to forward Brendan Gallagher. "We enjoy these games and I think it brings out the best in our group," said Gallagher, who has five points (two goals, three assists) in his past two games. "It's a good test against a desperate hockey team that needs a win. Our focus is just to continue to play good hockey, continue to put together wins and feel good about ourselves going into the playoffs."


Lightning team scope

The Tampa Bay Lightning aim to win their fifth straight game and gain ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They enter their game against the Canadiens four points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second wild card into the playoffs from the conference; each has six games remaining. Toronto has two more regulation/overtime wins, which is the first tiebreaker. Forward Nikita Kucherov, who missed a 5-3 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday with an illness, will return. "I feel good," Kucherov said after the morning skate Saturday. "Happy to be back. The guys played well without me but we have to continue to play well and get the two points." Kucherov was named the NHL's First Star for March after scoring 22 points (12 goals, 10 assists) in 14 games during the month. The Lightning have back-to-back games against the Montreal Canadiens and Dallas Stars over the weekend to close out a four-game homestand. "We are right there but we need to continue to get the points," defenseman Victor Hedman said. "It's important to win these games at home." Tampa Bay was 10-4-1 in March.


Canadiens projected lineup

Max Pacioretty -- Phillip Danault -- Alexander Radulov

Alex Galchenyuk -- Andrew Shaw -- Artturi Lehkonen

Paul Byron -- Tomas Plekanec -- Brendan Gallagher

Dwight King -- Michael McCarron -- Andreas Martinsen

Andrei Markov -- Shea Weber

Brandon Davidson -- Jeff Petry

Nathan Beaulieu -- Alexei Emelin

Carey Price

Charlie Lindgren

Scratched: Steve Ott, Brian Flynn, Nikita Nesterov

Injured: Al Montoya (lower body), Jordie Benn (upper body), Torrey Mitchell (illness)


Lightning projected lineup

Ondrej Palat -- Brayden Point -- Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn -- Vladislav Namestnikov -- Jonathan Drouin

Adam Erne -- Yanni Gourde -- Joel Vermin

Gabriel Dumont -- Greg McKegg -- J.T. Brown

Victor Hedman -- Jake Dotchin

Anton Stralman -- Andrej Sustr

Braydon Coburn -- Luke Witkowski

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Peter Budaj

Scratched: None

Injured: Steven Stamkos (knee surgery), Jason Garrison (lower body), Ryan Callahan (hip), Tyler Johnson (lower body), Cedric Paquette (lower body)


Status report

Stamkos and Johnson took part in the morning skate, and coach Jon Cooper has not ruled either out for Sunday. … Benn participated in the Canadiens morning skate. ... Vermin was officially recalled from Syracuse of the American Hockey League on Saturday, though he did not leave the Lightning.


Who's hot

Price is 11-2-0 with 20 goals allowed and a shutout in his past 13 games. … Byron has nine points (six goals, three assists) in his past nine games. … Kucherov has 11 points (seven goals, four assists) in a five-game point streak and has 31 points (17 goals, 14 assists) in his past 17 games. … Palat has 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in a six-game point streak. … Drouin has eight points (four goals, four assists), in his past six games.

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