Tampa Bay Lightning (+115) at Montreal Canadiens (-127, 5 o/u)
The Montreal Canadiens (47-21-8, 102 pts) have largely had their way with their Eastern Conference rivals this season, sitting in top spot among the 16 teams. But Les Habitants have struggled all year against their nearest competitor in the Atlantic Division, the Tampa Bay Lightning (46-23-7, 99 pts). They’ll look to bump that trend tonight when the teams meet for the fifth and final time this season (7:30 PM Eastern at the Bell Centre in Montreal). .
Tampa has taken all four meetings with Montreal on the season; just two weeks ago, the Lightning doubled up on the Habs, 4-2, in Florida. The Lightning followed that up with three more wins, but have dropped their last two coming into tonight.
On Thursday, Tampa fell to the Predators (3-2) at home; then the team started its current five-game road trip with a 4-0 loss to the Red Wings (4-0). They now sit three points back of Montreal in the Eastern Conference standings.
On the injury front, Tampa Bay center Cedric Paquette and fefenseman Jason Garrison are listed as day to day with injuries suffered against Detroit.
“Neither of them look good,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “It would be a big blow if those guys aren’t available.”
Montreal, meanwhile, comes into tonight’s game on the heels of a 3-2 overtime win over the Florida Panthers. The snapped a two-game losing streak and positioned Montreal well to gain home-ice advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs.
“I’m pretty sure we knew we were going to be in the playoffs by this time of the year,” said center Alex Galchenyuk, who tied the game at two late in the second period with his 20th goal of the year. “It’s nice to have, but we knew we were up there. Getting home-ice advantage is huge for us. It’s going to be big for us in the playoffs, and that’s what we’re working on.”
Tonight’s game will be a signficant contrast in styles. Behind Vezina front-runner Carey Price, Montreal boasts the best defense in the NHL, allowing just 2.2 goals per game; Tampa, on the other hand, leads the league in scoring at 3.2 GPG, and ices four 20-goal scorers: Steven Stamkos (46), Nikita Kucherov (27), Tyler Johnson (26), and Ryan Callahan (22).
Despite Montreal’s year-long struggles against Tampa, the home Canadiens are -127 favorites for tonight’s game at the moment; Tampa is at +115 and the o/u is at five.
(Photo credit: Michael Miller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)