Wednesday, April 16, 2014
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Preview: Canadiens At Lightning

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[April 16, 2014]  The Montreal Canadiens attempt to erase the stinging memory of last season's Eastern Conference first-round playoff ouster when they visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night in the opener of a best-of-seven series. Unlike a year ago when Montreal was a prohibitive favorite over Ottawa, the Canadiens and Tampa Bay finished one point apart in the standings. Montreal needs to find a way to generate some offense against the Lightning after scoring once in each of their four meetings.

Although Tampa Bay won three of the four matchups this season, three of the contests were tied 1-1 at the end of regulation and the only game decided before overtime was knotted at 1-1 entering the final period. The biggest question mark for the Lightning is the health of starting goaltender Ben Bishop, who missed the final three contests of the regular season and will not be available for at least Game 1. Anders Lindback was magnificent in his place, going 3-0-0 and earning the NHL's First Star of the Week.

TV: 7 p.m. ET, CNBC, CBC, RDS (Montreal), SUN (Tampa Bay)


ABOUT THE CANADIENS (46-28-8, 3rd in Atlantic Division): Carey Price carried the burden of an entire nation when he backstopped Team Canada to the gold medal at the Winter Olympics, but the pressure will be no less for a rabid Montreal fan base salivating for its 25th Stanley Cup overall and first championship since 1993. Price tuned up for the playoffs with a 41-save shutout  his sixth of the season  in a 1-0 victory over the New York Rangers in the season finale en route to posting a career-best .927 save percentage, but he'll need help from an offense that received a jolt with the trade-deadline acquisition of Thomas Vanek from the New York Islanders. The Canadiens' top line of Vanek, Max Pacioretty (career-high 39 goals) and David Desharnais combined for 18 tallies and 23 assists in 41 games, although Montreal's offense bogged down with only three goals in its last three games.

ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (46-27-9, 2nd in Atlantic Division): The resilient team withstood the loss of superstar Steven Stamkos for 45 games to a broken leg and the trade of captain and leading scorer Martin St. Louis, so it hardly comes as a surprise that Lindback has the full confidence of Tampa Bay. Lindback allowed only two goals in his last three appearances and registered his only shutout of the campaign by blanking Washington in the regular-season finale  a victory that clinched home ice against the Canadiens. Rookie Ondrej Palat and Valtteri Filppula returned to practiced Tuesday and will be ready for the opener after missing the season finale with injuries.

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OVERTIME

  1. Filppula has failed to hit the scoresheet in eight career games against Montreal while Pacioretty has six goals and six assists in 12 contests versus the Lightning.

  2. Tampa Bay closed the season on a four-game winning streak, allowing a total of four goals.

  3. Montreal went 0-for-23 on the power play in its last eight games.

SERIES PREDICTION: Canadiens in 7

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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