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Panthers visit Canadiens to start trip

by Sean McCullen

PANTHERS (11-17-5) at CANADIENS (20-11-3)


Last 10: Florida 5-4-1; Montreal 7-2-1

Season series: This is the first of four games. The Florida Panthers and Montreal Canadiens next play at BB&T Center on Dec. 29. Montreal won all three games between the teams in 2012-13.

Big story: The Canadiens will be looking to find their scoring touch against the Panthers, who have allowed 3.15 goals per game, 27th in the NHL. Montreal has scored two goals in losing two of their past three games, but the Canadiens are 10-2-1 in their past 13.

The Panthers have won four of five games, including back-to-back 3-2 shootout victories against the Detroit Red Wings and Washington Capitals.

Team Scope:

Panthers: Florida will be looking to continue its recent strong play by winning in Montreal for the first time since March 27, 2012.

The Panthers will have to do so without goalie Tim Thomas, who was placed on injured reserve Saturday with a groin injury. Scott Clemmensen is expected to get his second consecutive start.

Defenseman Dylan Olsen has been a pleasant surprise for Florida since being acquired as part of the trade that sent Kris Versteeg back to the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 14. He scored the Panthers' first goal Friday night against Washington, and he has six points (three goals) during a five-game point streak.

Interim coach Peter Horachek has been playing Olsen with Erik Gudbranson.

"They're both big guys, and we thought they could complement each other by playing in a lot of different situations," Horachek told the Miami Herald. "They're both mobile enough, move the puck pretty well, so we thought it would be a good pairing."

Olsen appeared in 28 games with the Blackhawks in 2011-12, but spent all of 2012-13 with the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

Canadiens: Montreal escaped snowy Long Island and ended a two-game losing skid with a 1-0 overtime victory against the New York Islanders on Saturday night. Max Pacioretty scored the game-winner 1:51 into OT.

"That was a really good, hard-fought win," goalie Carey Price said. "We played a really solid game from start to finish. We knew it would be low-scoring game, and we're playing really well, patiently waiting for our chance. The effort was there all night."

Price made 21 saves in the win.

Who's hot: Clemmensen stopped 23 of 25 shots he faced in regulation and overtime before stopping the last six Washington shooters in the breakaway competition. It was his first win of the season. … Canadiens center Alex Galchenyuk has two goals his past four games.

Injury report: Panthers defenseman Ed Jovanovski (hip) has not played yet this season. Thomas is expected to miss a few games after injuring his groin in practice Thursday. … Canadiens right wing Rene Bourque (upper body) remains on injured reserve, but he has returned to practice and could be in the lineup early this week. Forward George Parros (head) is day-to-day. Defenseman Davis Drewiske (shoulder) is on IR.

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