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Montoya starts for Panthers; Sharks' Jones in net

Florida backup has 1.98 goals-against average in 16 games

by Alain Poupart / NHL.com Correspondent

SHARKS (30-20-5) at PANTHERS (33-18-6)

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET; CSN-CA, FS-F, NHL.TV

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Al Montoya starts for the Florida Panthers against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday at BB&T Center. 

It is the first time the veteran goalie will make consecutive appearances this season.

Montoya made 31 saves Monday in a 2-1 shootout victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and coach Gerard Gallant said his performance earned him another start. 

"(Montoya) played real good last game," Gallant said. "He's played really well. Everybody understands that; it's about winning games and playing well. We've got to be fair to everybody." 

Montoya is 9-4-1 with a 1.98 goals-against average and .929 save percentage this season in 16 games (14 starts) this season and has allowed more than two goals twice. 

Since appearing in the All-Star Game, No. 1 goalie Roberto Luongo has allowed three goals or more in each of his five starts and was pulled after the first period of a 5-3 loss against the St. Louis Blues on Friday after allowing three goals on 13 shots. 

"(Luongo) is our No. 1 goalie and he's the starting goalie and (Montoya) is our backup and they're doing the job perfectly," Gallant said. "It's working out real good for our club. That's how we want things to go. (Montoya has) played great. It's a tough job being a backup goalie. You don't get a whole lot of starts, but when you go in there, you've got to do the job and he's done it for us so far." 

The Panthers will be without five regulars against the Sharks: forwards Aleksander Barkov, Brandon Pirri and Quinton Howden, and defensemen Erik Gudbranson and Willie Mitchell.  

Barkov (upper body) and Gudbranson (upper body) took part in the optional morning skate Thursday; the first time they've skated with their teammates on game day since being out of the lineup. 

Gudbranson will miss his seventh game and Barkov will miss his fifth. 

"It was just something lingering that needed to be taken care of," Gudbranson said. "It's unfortunate. It's very frustrating being outside the lineup, kind of feeling helpless, but the boys are doing a good job right now. They had a couple of tough games, but they've rallied. 

"That will to win and that understanding of where we are in the standings hasn't gone away because we're injured right now. We need a big win tonight and hopefully we can get healthy soon." 

The Panthers have lost four of six (2-3-1) but maintain a four-point lead over the Boston Bruins atop the Atlantic Division. 

San Jose is 3-0-1 in its past four games, including a 4-2 road victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. 

Coach Peter DeBoer said he would go with the same lineup, including goalie Martin Jones making a third consecutive start. 

The Sharks beat the Panthers 5-2 at SAP Center on Nov. 5 when Brent Burns had a goal and an assist. Patrick Marleau, Joonas Donskoi, Chris Tierney and Marc-Edouard Vlasic also scored for the Sharks. Vincent Trocheck and Brandon Pirri had goals for the Panthers. Montoya made 31 saves for Florida. 

"We played well," DeBoer said. "I think we got them on an off-night. I don't think they were happy about their game. I'm sure they're going to be better tonight, so we'll have to make sure we're ready. They're a very good team, especially at home." 

San Jose has a 19-8-2 road record; the third-best mark in the NHL behind the Washington Capitals (20-6-2) and Boston Bruins (19-6-3). 

Here are the projected lineups: 

SHARKS 

Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski   

Matt Nieto - Patrick Marleau - Joel Ward   

Joonas Donskoi - Logan Couture - Tommy Wingels   

Melker Karlsson - Chris Tierney - Dainius Zubrus   

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun   

Paul Martin - Brent Burns   

Matt Tennyson - Dylan DeMelo   

Martin Jones   

Alex Stalock   

Injured: Brenden Dillon (upper body) 

Scratched: Mike Brown, Mirco Mueller   

PANTHERS 

Jonathan Huberdeau - Nick Bjugstad - Jussi Jokinen  

Reilly Smith - Vincent Trocheck - Jaromir Jagr  

John McFarland - Derek MacKenzie - Logan Shaw   

Garrett Wilson - Greg McKegg - Shawn Thornton   

Brian Campbell - Alex Petrovic   

Dmitry Kulikov - Aaron Ekblad   

Steven Kampfer - Brent Regner   

Al Montoya  

Roberto Luongo 

Injured: Brandon Pirri (ankle), Quinton Howden (upper body), Aleksander Barkov (upper body), Erik Gudbranson (upper body), Willie Mitchell (lower body), Dave Bolland (lower body) 

Status report: Dillon will miss his fourth game, but DeBoer said he is getting better every day and will be re-evaluated Friday. ... DeBoer said he would wait until after the game to determine whether to have Jones or Stalock start against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday. ... Howden and Bolland continue to be listed as day-to-day, but neither skated Thursday morning. ... Pirri is listed as week-to-week. 

Who's hot: Vlasic has one assist in each of San Jose's past eight games, tying the franchise point streak for defensemen set earlier this season by Burns. "Things have been going well as a team, they've been going well individually," Vlasic said. "I'll try to keep it going. Eventually it'll end, but if I can help contribute offensively, it's an added bonus from shutting down teams' top lines, so I'll try to do it." ... Thornton has three goals and six assists in the past six games. ... Jagr remains two goals shy of tying Brett Hull for third on the NHL's all-time scoring list. Jagr has 739 career NHL goals.

 

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