GAME: Montreal Canadiens (13-13-3-1) at Tampa Bay Lightning (13-8-4-1).
TIME: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. EST.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are being swallowed up by their brutal schedule.
The Lightning will play their seventh game in the last 13 days when they
take on the visiting Montreal Canadiens.
Tampa Bay, which has lost two straight, including a 3-2 defeat to Ottawa on
Thursday, has won just two of its last 10 games (2-6-2) to fall from first
place in the Southeast Division to five points back of Atlanta.
After playing just seven games in October, the Lightning were well-rested
for November and it showed as they finished the month with an 11-4-4-1 overall
record. However, after having five days off from Nov. 15-19, the Lightning
finished the month with six games in 10 days, going 2-2-2.
Things have gotten worse in December as Tampa Bay has gone 2-4. The
Lightning won't have more than two days off in a row until the All-Star break
in early February.
To make matters worse, one of the Lightning's key offensive players is going
through a dreadful slump. Brad Richards has just one goal in his last 20 games.
"It's different when you're not scoring and you don't get some chances,
like I was for a while," Richards said. "But when you get four or five in one
period -- I may not get a chance like that again for another week, that's tough
In the loss to Ottawa on Thursday, Dave Andreychuk and Ruslan Fedotenko
scored for the Lightning, who played their fifth game in eight days.
Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 37 shots.
The Canadiens are coming off a 4-2 loss to Florida on Friday, just their
second defeat in their last eight games (4-2-2). Richard Zednik and Saku Koivu
scored first-period goals, and Jose Theodore made 45 saves.
Montreal, which beat the New York Rangers on Wednesday, has not won
consecutive games since its sixth and seventh games of the season.
"If we want to move up in the standings, we're going to have to start
winning consecutive games," Canadiens coach Claude Julien said.
"It's not only disappointing, it's unacceptable."