Surging Lightning ready to host Habs
Wednesday, 12.30.2009 / 7:00 PM
CANADIENS (19-19-3) at LIGHTNING (15-15-9)
Montreal 4-5-1; Tampa Bay 4-5-1.
The second of four games between the teams. The Lightning defeated the Canadiens in a 3-1 decision on Nov. 7 in Montreal. Former Habs forward Alex Tanguay scored the game-winner for Tampa and had an assist, while Montreal native Vincent Lecavalier picked up a pair of helpers.
The Lightning have won four of their last five games, and, despite a slow start to the season, they're just one point shy of a playoff spot. The Canadiens meanwhile, saw their four-game win streak napped by the Senators on Monday.
: The Habs started the game in Ottawa in fine shape. Mike Cammalleri
scored Montreal's 20,000 goal
, and Benoit Pouliot
followed up by netting his first goal as a Canadien. But the Senators responded with four straight goals en route to a 4-2 victory. On the brighter side, it was the first time in five games that Montreal held its opponent to fewer than 40 shots on goal.
"It's pretty special to be part of the history," Cammalleri said. "It's not the result we wanted though."
The Canadiens also welcomed back Brian Gionta
to the lineup. His broken foot having healed, the right wing had six shots on goal, was on the ice for 16:34 and collected an assist on Pouliot's tally. General Manager Bob Gainey's trade of Guillaume Latendresse to the Wild for Pouliot seems to be making more and more sense in every game. In his third game with Montreal, the left wing has shown a lot of grit and seemed to fit nicely alongside Gionta and Scott Gomez
on the second line on Monday. Along with his goal, the 23-year-old had six shots on goal.
Tampa Bay is coming off a nice win on Monday, a 2-1 victory over the Bruins, at St. Pete Times Forum. Tanguay scored in his second straight game on a beauty between the legs pass
by Lecavalier. Martin St. Louis notched the game winner, while Kurtis Foster, in his first season with the Lightning, assisted on both goals. The Bolts outshot the B's 39-32, with goaltender Mike Smith making 31 saves.
“Two in a row, that’s a pretty good stretch,” Smith said. “We beat a really good team. We’re fighting for our lives right now to get in the playoffs, so every game is big for us, especially the ones that are in our conference. Tonight we did a lot of good things. It’s definitely a building block.”
Lecavalier, who was named the first star in Tampa's last two games, has been quietly returning to top form after a slow start. The Lightning captain has earned 11 points in his last seven games and his point production is a most welcome change.
Cammalleri has had five points in his last four games, Andrei Kostitsyn
has had a point in his last six and defenseman Andrei Markov
has continued to record at least a point since returning from injury on Dec. 19. Tomas Plekanec
saw his four-game point streak snapped on Monday in which he has had 10 points.
Meanwhile, St. Louis is riding a five-game point streak with two goals and six helpers for the Lightning. Tanguay has had five points in his last five games after recording just one point in his previous nine contests.
Lightning forwards Jeff Halpern (lower body) and Todd Fedoruk (lower body) are expected to miss two weeks, while defensman Matt Walker (lower body) is on the injured reserve. Defenseman Paul Ranger continues to be out for personal reasons.
The Canadiens are only down to two players in the infirmary. Defensemen Roman Hamrlik
(knee) and Paul Mara (swollen left hand) are day-to-day with their injuries, but are both questionable for Wednesday.
: Tampa Bay has historically had good luck against Montreal and has earned points in their last six matchups for a record of 4-0-2.
"Can you enjoy it tonight? Yes, but tomorrow you need to get to work. We have to learn to be businesslike the next day, the next game. We've won four of five and that's great, but we're still a .500 hockey club." -- Lightning coach Rick Tocchet after Monday's win over the Bruins
The Voice of the Fans - Midseason report
2010 World Junior Hockey Championship
Olympics rosters unveiling