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Tampa Bay Lightning at Montreal Canadiens preview: A brief Canadian roadtrip

The Lightning arrive in Montreal for their first visit to Canada.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Lightning at Montreal Canadiens: GAME 13

Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: Bell Centre

Broadcast/Streaming: SunS, SN360, TVAS

Opponent SBNation Site: Habs Eyes On The Prize

Preview:

The Tampa Bay Lightning look to erase their mistakes against the Nashville Predators as they cross the border to take on their Atlantic Division rivals, the Montreal Canadiens. Despite falling 4-1 to the Predators on Thursday night, the Lightning played a strong possession game and outplayed Nashville for most of the game, felled by strong goaltending and a few costly defensive breakdowns.

Meanwhile, the Montreal Canadiens have been the success story no one could have seen coming. They’ve emerged victorious against several playoff contenders, including the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, and most recently, the reigning-champion Washington Capitals. Despite less-than-stellar performances from their goaltending tandem of Carey Price and Antti Niemi, the Canadiens have surprised opponents with their speed, forecheck, and cycle. Max Domi leads the team in scoring with 12 points in as many games.

Both teams have been hit with the injury bug this season, and both are missing their number one defensemen. It looks like Victor Hedman will be out for a few more games with a lower body injury, and Shea Weber isn’t likely to return until mid-December as he is recovering from multiple surgeries to his knee and foot. The teams aren’t unscathed up front, either. Ondrej Palat has missed the last three games for Tampa Bay, and didn’t make the trip with the team.

Aside from Weber, the Habs are also missing Tomas Plekanec with a long-term back injury, while David Schlemko is recovering from a serious knee injury. Paul Byron is the team’s best bet to return, after missing their game against Washington, but he isn’t guaranteed to return for this game.

It may be Domi leading the Habs in scoring, but the newly united Finnish line of Artturi Lekhonen, Joel Armia, and rookie Jesperi Kotkaniemi will be the line to watch for Montreal. Kotkaniemi scored his first two NHL goals against Washington on Thursday and the Finnish line dominated play for Montreal all game long. And although Montreal was no stranger to their own defensive zone blunders, the rushing-defense was critical in setting up goals. It might not be the prettiest brand of hockey, but the Habs have enough skill and speed in their lineup to make opponents lives difficult.

The Lightning reunited Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov after Palat’s injury, but the pair haven’t clicked in the way many have hoped just yet. Stamkos had a rough game against Nashville, but hopefully that was a one-off. Tampa Bay was able to take control for long stretches that game, in large part due to Mathieu Joseph and Anthony Cirelli, who seem to be developing great chemistry together. Brayden Point’s line has been a significant offensive threat in the Lightning’s last few games, so despite not contributing the scoresheet against Nashville, they looked dangerous every time they had the puck in the offensive zone.

A game against a weaker opponent is just what Tampa Bay needs to get their game back, but Montreal has proven multiple times this season that they should not be underestimated. They’ve taken down multiple contending teams this season. This is a team that likes, and succeeds, when they can sustain unrelenting offensive pressure, something they’ve done quite frequently this season. And although the Lightning are more skilled up-front, and overall better defensively, the Habs blueline is fast. They are unafraid to join the rush or pinch to help sustain the cycle. That’s not to say the Lightning’s defensemen aren’t capable of that, but Hedman’s injury takes away speed from an already slowing blueline.

The Lightning have the ability to put this game away. The problem is, so do the Canadiens. Whichever team forces the other to play defense-first is the one that will likely end up with two points. It may not be as easy of a matchup than what it looks like on paper, after all.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forwards

J.T. Miller - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov

Yanni Gourde - Brayden Point - Tyler Johnson

Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Mathieu Joseph

Adam Erne - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan

Danick Martel

Injured: Ondrej Palat

Defense

Ryan McDonagh - Anton Stralman

Braydon Coburn - Mikhail Sergachev

Slater Koekkoek - Dan Girardi

Cameron Gaunce

Injured: Victor Hedman

Goalies

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Louis Domingue

Montreal Canadiens

Forwards

Tomas Tatar - Phillip Danault - Brendan Gallagher

Jonathan Drouin - Charles Hudon - Max Domi

Artturi Lekhonen - Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Joel Armia

Nicolas Deslauriers - Matthew Peca - Andrew Shaw

Injured: Tomas Plekanec, Paul Byron, David Schlemko

Defense

Jordie Benn - Jeff Petry

Mike Reilly - Noah Juulsen

Xavier Ouellet - Victor Mete

Injured: Shea Weber

Goalies

Carey Price

Antti Niemi