Season Series: This is the first of four meetings between the teams. They last faced each other on Jan. 29, when five different players scored for Florida in a 5-1 victory against Montreal at the BankAtlantic Center.
Big Story: They may be on the road, but the Canadiens will feel right at home on Thursday night as thousands of their fans will be ringing in the New Year in South Florida. The Habs' faithful was in full force on Wednesday in Tampa Bay and watched the Canadiens earn a 2-1 overtime victory against the Lightning.
Canadiens: Just hours after finding out he will be representing the Czech Republic in two months at the Olympic Games in Vancouver, Tomas Plekanec scored the game-winner 3:32 into overtime to lift Montreal to a thrilling victory at the St. Pete Times Forum on Wednesday night.
''Not bad. No complaints today,'' Plekanec said. ''I hope there'll be more days like that.''
Panthers: Florida enters Thursday's action trying to avoid a three-game losing streak. The Panthers suffered their second straight setback on Sunday in a 2-1 loss to the Boston Bruins at the BankAtlantic Center.
"It was a tough game that could have gone either way," said Florida goalie Scott Clemmensen, who made 26 saves. "In this League, there's never a margin of error."
Who's Hot: Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov has three goals and five assists in six games since returning from injury. … Panthers center Dominic Moore has two goals and three assists in his last seven contests.
Injury Report: Habs defenseman Paul Mara is with the club, but hasn't played since Dec. 21 due to a hand injury. … Panthers left wings Cory Stillman (knee) and Rostislav Olesz (flu) are expected to return on Thursday, while Dmitry Kulikov (knee), Kenndal McArdle (shoulder) and David Booth (concussion) are out.
Stat Pack: Florida's attendance on Sunday of 18,799 was the franchise's second-largest of the season. The Panthers drew 18,802 for their home opener on Oct. 10.
Puck Drop: "I thought the last two games, we got back on our heels a little bit. Early in the third, they started taking it to us. But we showed pretty good composure locking it down and getting back into it late in the third." -- Habs forward Brian Gionta after Wednesday's 2-1 win at Tampa Bay