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Tampa Bay Lightning at Montreal Canadiens preview: The Habs try to save their season

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The Bolts’ season ending road trip continues.

canadiens.com

Tampa Bay Lightning at Montreal Canadiens : Game 80

Time: 7:30 pm Eastern Time

Location: Amalie Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: RDS, TSN2

Opponent SBNation Site: Eyes on the Prize

Preview:

The Tampa Bay Lightning finish their last back-to-back games of the season tonight. After the win against the Ottawa Senators, they face the Montreal Canadiens. The Bolts have won all three games against the Habs so far this season, including shutout victory back in February.

Montreal is still fighting for a playoff spot. They are only one point behind the Carolina Hurricanes and two point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets. But their playoff chances are the lowest between those teams, mostly because they are going to play against the best teams in the league over the last week. After facing the Lightning tonight, their next opponents are the Capitals and the Leafs.

Probably the weakest part of the Canadiens game, which is holding them out of playoffs, is their power play. They still have the worst power play percentage in the whole league. And that’s been a problem because their numbers at 5-on-5 are good. Without the drag of their poor power play, they would have been in a wild card spot. Carey Price has also been very effective over the second part of the regular season.

The Lightning played their last game against the Senators with a very unusual line-up. Due to injuries to Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman, and Dan Girardi, Cameron Gaunce made his debut for the Lightning, played 12 minutes and will likely get another chance to play tonight. The forward lines were also shuffled: Mathieu Joseph got a chance to play on the first line and JT Miller was sent to the fourth line.

According to Jon Cooper, Victor Hedman is doubtful to play before the season ends, but expected to return at the start of playoffs. Stralman should play on the road trip and the team hopes Girardi will start practicing toward the end of the week.

Louis Domingue is day-to-day with a lower body injury and with the team having played last night, Andrei Vasilevskiy will get a rest. That means Eddie Pasquale is going to start against the Habs tonight. This will be the AHL veteran’s second career start. His first was earlier this year in a 6-5 victory against the Red Wings. The Habs are a much better team than the Wings and if the Lightning want a victory tonight, Pasquale will need a better showing than he had in his debut.

But whether the Lightning should even want to win this game is questionable. From a playoff seeding perspective, they’re probably better off losing. They would rather see Montreal in the first round than either of the Blue Jackets or the Hurricanes who are the other options right now.

On the flip side, the Bolts are still chasing history. A win tonight would mean they still have a chance to set the all-time wins record. They recorded their 60th win last night becoming just the third team to accomplish that feat. If they win out, they would break the record set by Detroit in 1996-1997.

For a seemingly meaningless game, there are quite a few storylines tonight. We’ll see which one emerges after the final buzzer.

First Round Opponent Scoreboard Watching:

Boston Bruins at Columbus Blue Jackets - 7:00 pm

Carolina Hurricanes at Toronto Maple Leafs - 7:30 pm

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forwards

Ondrej Palat - Steven Stamkos - Mathieu Joseph

Yanni Gourde - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Tyler Johnson - Anthony Cirelli - Alex Killorn

J.T. Miller - Cedric Paquette - Adam Erne

Scratched: Danick Martel, Ryan Callahan

Defense

Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak

Braydon Coburn - Mikhail Sergachev

Cameron Gaunce - Jan Rutta

Injured: Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman, Dan Girardi

Goalies

Eddie Pasquale

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Injured: Louis Domingue

Montreal Canadiens

Forwards

Tomas Tatar - Phillip Danault - Brendan Gallagher

Artturi Lehkonen - Max Domi - Andrew Shaw

Jonathan Drouin - Jordan Weal - Joel Armia

Nate Thompson - Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Dale Weise|

Defense

Victor Mete - Shea Weber

Brett Kulak - Jeff Petry

Jordie Benn - Christian Folin

Goalies

Carey Price

Antti Niemi

Scratched: Matthew Peca, Charles Hudon, Mike Reilly

Injured: Paul Byron