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Panthers-Canadiens Preview @NHL
Panthers-Canadiens Preview

GAME: Florida Panthers (6-9-3) at Montreal Canadiens (12-3-3).

TIME: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

Desperation is starting to creep up on the Florida Panthers.

In the midst of an eight-game losing streak, their longest since 1998, the Panthers continue their three-game road trip against the Eastern Conference-leading Montreal Canadiens.

The Panthers have not won since beating Pittsburgh 4-3 on Oct. 25, going 0-6-2. Making the losing streak all the more painful is the fact that Florida has lost by one goal five times, including their latest loss, 5-4 at Philadelphia on Sunday.

In that game, Mike Knuble scored a short-handed goal with three seconds left to lift the Flyers.

"The guys are just going to have to be a little more sharp the next time," said Panthers backup goalie Jamie McLennan, who started in place of Roberto Luongo after Luongo was in net for the five previous losses. "That's the way it goes right now and maybe we'll get some bounces later on in the season."

Florida lost a franchise-record 13 in a row from Feb. 7-March 23, 1998.

The Panthers' struggles on the power play have been a major factor in the losing streak. Florida is 1-for-29 in the last five games.

Florida concludes its trip Thursday at Ottawa, which is one point behind the Canadiens for the top spot in the East.

Montreal has dropped two in a row after winning five straight. Despite the consecutive losses, which came in a shootout and overtime, Montreal is atop the conference thanks to their ability to win close contests. The Canadiens are 10-3 in one-goal games.

Montreal fell 5-4 in overtime to Toronto on Saturday, but were still encouraged by the effort.

"I'll tell you one thing, if we play like we did tonight, we are going to win a lot more games than we lose," center Steve Begin said.

The Habs will be without Alexei Kovalev, their second-leading scorer, on Tuesday. Kovalev will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery that day in Pittsburgh and is expected to miss three to four weeks. The forward has 19 points in 18 games.

STANDINGS (through Nov. 14): Panthers - 15 points, 3rd place (tied), 10 PB, Southeast Division. Canadiens - 27 points, 1st place, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Panthers - Nathan Horton, 7 goals; Olli Jokinen, 11 assists and 15 points; Branislav Mezei, 37 PIM. Canadiens - Michael Ryder, 8 goals; Saku Koivu, 15 assists and 20 points; Begin, 43 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 14): Panthers - Power play: 12.3 percent (14 for 113), 28th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.3 percent (94 for 117), 21st. Canadiens - Power play: 20 percent (24 for 120), tied for 9th. Penalty killing: 83 percent (103 for 124), 12th.

GOALTENDERS: Panthers - Luongo (6-7-3, 2 SO, 2.64 GAA); McLennan (0-2-0, 2.79). Canadiens - Jose Theodore (10-3-3, 2.95); Yann Danis (2-0-0, 1, 1.50).

SEASON SERIES: Canadiens, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 1; Canadiens 5-4, OT. At Montreal, Begin tied the game with 8.1 seconds left in regulation, and Ryder scored in overtime for the Canadiens.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Panthers - 2-7-2 on the road; Canadiens - 6-3-1 at home.

Associated Press
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