Florida Panthers Visit Montreal Canadians: Game 76 Preview

Feb. 26, 2012: Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen (30) blocks a shot on goal from Montreal Canadiens defenseman Raphael Diaz (61) during the third period at the BankAtlantic Center. The Panthers won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

The Panthers are closing on the playoffs. Can they reduce their magic number to eight? Tune in, tonight at 7:30 PM.

The Florida Panthers cross the border to take on the Montreal Canadians at the Bell Centre in Montreal tonight at 7:30 PM ET. This will be the fourth and final meeting between the two clubs this season. Florida earned victories in each of the first three contests, 2-1 in Montreal in October, then twice at home, 3-2 in December and 4-2 in February. The Panthers are 16-15-5 (.514) on the road, the Habs have a 14-15-9 (.487) home record.


Florida is starting out a four game roadtrip. After tonight's matchup, they go on to face the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday, and the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday. Florida's current magic numbers are 10 for a playoff berth (over ninth place Buffalo) and also 10 for the division title (over Southeast Division second place Washington).

The Canadians are coming off a 4-1 road loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday. After tonight's game, they head back out on the road to face the New York Rangers on Friday and the Washington Capitals on Saturday. The Canadians have no magic number, as they have been eliminated from playoff contention.

These two last faced each other February 26th in Sunrise. Stephen Weiss (15, 16) scored twice, Sean Bergenheim (14) scored a power play goal, and Brian Campbell (4) capped out the scoring in the third as the Panthers skated to a 4-2 victory. Florida had spotted the Canadians an early 2-0 lead on an even strength marker by David Desharnais (12) and a power play marker by P.K. Subban (4). Scott Clemmensen stopped 18-of-20 shots for the victory, while Peter Budaj allowed all four goals on 32 shots. Weiss' parents, Karl and Linda, were onhand to see him break the Panthers mark for most games, at 614,

"It's awesome for them to be here. It means a lot to me and them," Weiss said. "It's nice to get that win and a couple goals for them."

Canadiens @ Panthers 02/26/12 (via NHLVideo)


Florida dropped their last matchup, 3-2 to the New York Islanders in a shootout on Sunday in Sunrise. Stephen Weiss (19) scored in the first, passing Nathan Horton into fourth on the all-time Panther's goal list. Matt Moulson (34) evened the score on a power play in the second, Tomas Fleischmann (24) reestablished the Florida lead in the third, and Kyle Okposo (17) made the extra frame necessary with an equalizer midway through the third. Frans Neilsen beat Jose Theodore in the first round of the shootout for the victory. Theodore stopped 35-of-37 shots for the Panthers, while counterpart Evgeny Nabokov stopped 33-of-35. Defenseman Ed Jovanovski spoke about the disappointing result afterward,

"We're frustrated," said veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski. "We'd like to get four out of four points. It's two teams that are below us in the standings that we feel that we should beat."

Islanders @ Panthers 03/25/12 (via NHLVideo)



For the Islanders take, check out Lighthouse Hockey.

The Habs lost to the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-1 on Saturday. Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 23-of-24 shots in the Flyers win, allowing only a backhand to Tomas Plekanic (15) in the second period. Danny Briere (15, 16) and Kimmo Timonen (4) combined for three power play goals, and Matt Read (21) closed out the scoring in the third. Peter Budaj allowed four goals on 33 shots in the loss. Montreal coach Randy Cunneyworth spoke afterwards,

"I think you can contribute it to some degree of fatigue," Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth said. "We made some decisions early in the game that are beneficial to what we were doing and we had the opportunities. It really comes down to special teams, both ways. I think our power play had the opportunity at the end to get us one and get us into it to pull us a little closer there and who knows what can happen after that. We have to be a little better in those situations, but are we going to blame it on fatigue? No, I don't think so."

Canadiens @ Flyers 03/24/12 (via NHLVideo)

Common Thread:

Panthers goaltender Jose Theodore played in 353 games over nine seasons for the Canadiens. He posted a 141-158-35 record and a save percentage of .911 with a GAA of 2.62.

Canadiens defenseman Jaroslav Spacek played in 157 games for the Panthers over three seasons, scoring 15 goals and 39 assists with a plus-18 rating and 89 penalty minutes.

Panthers Milestones:
Games:
Dmitry Kulikov moves into 43rd all-time, passing Stu Barnes with his 192nd game. Shawn Matthias moves into 39th, passing Bryan McCabe with his 200th game.

Goals:
Kris Versteeg sits in 50th with 22 goals scored. Jason Garrison has 23 in 49th, Tomas Fleischmann has 24, tied with Dave Gagner in 47th. Shawn Matthias will move past Mike Van Ryn with his next goal, into 45th all-time with 26. Mike Santorelli will move into a tie with Niklas Hagman in 37th all-time with his next goal, number 30. Ed Jovanovski will move into 32nd with his next goal, number 32, with Richard Zednik.

Assists:
Brian Campbell will move into a tie with Ruslan Salei in 42nd all-time with his 46th assist. Dmitry Kulikov will pass Martin Gelinas into 34th all-time with his 55th assist.

Current Season Leaders:

Games:
Mike Weaver, Brian Campbell, Tomas Fleischmann - 75

Goals:
Tomas Fleischmann - 24
Kris Versteeg - 22
Stephen Weiss - 19
Sean Bergenheim - 17

Assists:
Brian Campbell - 45
Stephen Weiss - 36
Tomas Fleischmann - 32

Points:
Tomas Fleischmann - 56
Stephen Weiss - 55
Kris Versteeg, Brian Campbell - 49

Plus/Minus:
Stephen Weiss - plus-9
Jason Garrison - plus-8
Marcel Goc - plus-6

Point Shares:
Jose Theodore - 9.6
Brian Campbell, Jason Garrison - 7.9
Kris Versteeg, Tomas Fleischmann - 6.2
Stephen Weiss - 6.1

Panthers Injuries:
Jack Skille and Matt Bradley are both out, Skille for the season, and Bradley until April at the earliest.

Panthers Starting Lineup:

Forwards:
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Tomas Kopecky
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Wojtek Wolski - Shawn Matthias - Kris Versteeg
Marco Sturm - John Madden - Jerred Smithson

Defensemen:
Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Goalie:
Jose Theodore (22-14-8, .921, 2.36) may get the start.

Canadians Injuries:
Yannick Weber is out with a left knee injury. Tomas Kaberle missed six games lately, but is skating with the team. Scott Gomez is out with a concussion. Mathieu Darche has a possible concussion. Travis Moen is out with an upper body injury. Brian Gionta is out indefinitely with a torn right bicep. Raphael Diaz is out with a lower body injury.

Canadians Starting Lineup:

Forwards:
Erik Cole - David Desharnais - Max Pacioretty
Rene Borque - Tomas Plekanic - Lars Eller
Louis Leblanc - Ryan White - Mike Blunden
Brad Staubitz - Petteri Nokelainen - Aaron Palushaj

Defensemen:
Josh Georges - P.K. Subban
Andrei Markov - Alexei Emelin
Frederic St. Denis - Chris Campoli

Goalie:
Carey Price (26-27-10, .917, 2.42) is the probable starter.

Corsi Ratings: (last five games)

Florida Panthers:
Marcel Goc - .558
Tomas Kopecky - .546
Sean Bergenheim - .545
Jerred Smithson - .543
Jason Garrison - .528

Montreal Canadians:
Petteri Nokelainen - .483
Brad Staubitz - .481
Aaron Palushaj - .470
Erik Cole - .430
Andrei Markov - .429

Standings:

Florida Panthers: 36-24-15, 87 points, first Southeast Division, third Eastern Conference, 13th NHL, on pace for 95 points. Last five: W-W-L-O-O. Playoff odds: 96.1%

Montreal Canadians: 29-34-13, 71 points, fifth Northeast Division, 15th Eastern Conference, 29th NHL, on pace for 77 points. Last five: O-O-L-W-L. Playoff odds: 0%

Season Series: 3-0-0

All-Time Series: 33-24-13

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