Habs hope for stronger effort against pesky Panthers
Published Saturday, March 29, 2014 3:44PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, March 29, 2014 7:21PM EDT
The host Florida Panthers (27-39-8) might not be much of a hockey team but they've fought for every inch of ice against the Montreal Canadiens this season.
The Habs (42-26-7) are hoping to saw off the four game season series Saturday evening in Sunrise Florida, after winning only once in three tries against the struggling squad this season.
Rugged forward George Parros will get a rare start and giant veteran rearguard Douglas Murray will suit up for the contest while Jarred Tinordi and Tomas Plekanec – who returned to Montreal to deal with a personal matter – will not suit up in the second game of a four game Montreal road trip which started Thursday with a 5-4 victory over Detroit.
Scott Clemmensen, who beat the Canadiens twice this season will likely back up Dan Ellis in the nets Saturday. Clemmensen beat the Habs 2-1 on December 15 in Montreal, turning back 17 shots and then duplicated the feat two weeks later with a 4-1 home decision.
Clemmensen struggled in many other games, however, and was sent to the AHL but has recalled back up to backup Dan Ellis after recently-reqacquired Robert Luongo was hurt in a goalmouth collision. Ellis is one of five goalies to suit up for the Panthers this season.
The Habs' only victory over the Panthers this season took place on January 6 in Montreal, as David Desharnais and Brian Gionta scored and Carey Price outduelled Tim Thomas, who has since been traded to Dallas.
Despite their strong performances against the Canadiens, Coach Peter Horacek’s troops can expect to get one of the top choices in the upcoming draft once again, as they sit 27 of 30 in the overall standings and have a league second-worst minus 62 goal differential.
They’re 28th in goals scored with 178 and 27th in goals against with 240 and have prevailed in only three of their last 10 games.
The Panthers are led by veterans Scottie Upshall, 30, who leads the team with 35 points in 69 games and Brian Campbell, 34, who has 33 points in 74 outings.
Other Panthers in the 30-years-and-over club include Brad Boyes, 31, Marcel Goc, 30, Jesse Winchester, 30, Robert Luongo, 34, and Tomas Kopecky, 31. Tom Gilbert, 31, a top-pairing defenceman, is out for the rest of the season with a sports hernia.
Some of their younger rising talent includes Nick Bjugstad, 21, who has 33 points in 69 games, Jonathan Huberdeau, 20, who has 27 points in 66 games and Aleksander Barkov, with 16 goals in 54 outings.
Huberdeau, who has struggled this season after being named Rookie of the Year last season, will miss his seventh straight game with injury.
The Habs are hoping to stay ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning, their next opponent on the four game swing, as the teams butt heads Tuesday.
The Canadiens have 91 points in 75 games against 89 for the Bolts, who have played two fewer contests. The team that ends ahead will likely get home ice advantage in the likely first round series between the teams.
The Canadiens are hoping to get another strong performance by their top line of Max Pacioretty, Thomas Vanek and David Desharnais who combined for six points against the Red Wings Thursday.
Carey Price is expected to be nets for the Canadiens, who have gone 7-3 in their last 10 games and have gone 8-1 since their West Coast road swing.