It’s the second game in the Habs’ three-game post-Christmas road trip. They have a 9-4 December record after beating Florida 5-3 Friday night.
Pat Hickey, Montreal Gazette
Here are five things you should know about the Canadiens-Lightning game at Amalie Arena on Saturday.
The matchup: This is the second game in the Canadiens’ three-game post-Christmas road trip. They have a 9-4 record in December after beating the Florida Panthers 5-3 Friday night, but the Canadiens face a difficult challenge as they take on the top team in the NHL without goaltender Carey Price. Backup Antti Niemi played well Friday, stopping 23 shots, and he’ll get another start in Tampa. The Lightning had a tough night on defence Thursday, but their offence pulled them through for a 6-5 overtime win over the Philadelphia Flyers. It was the fourth consecutive win for the Lightning, which has a 20-2-0 record against Eastern Conference foes.
Price update: After he left practice in Montreal on Thursday, the Canadiens placed Price on the injured reserve list, retroactive to Dec. 22. That means the goaltender could be activated in time to play in Dallas on New Year’s Eve. But coach Claude Julien dismissed that possibility after the Canadiens’ morning skate Friday in Sunrise. He said Price would remain in Montreal to be examined by doctors and to rest. Julien said Price has been suffering through a lingering “irritant” for several weeks and that the condition became worse during Thursday’s practice.
Top line needs to step up: Max Domi and Jonathan Drouin are the Canadiens’ top two scorers, but they don’t rate highly in the what-have-you-done-for-us lately category. Domi hasn’t scored a goal in eight games, while linemate Drouin has two goals in his last 10 games after scoring an empty-netter Friday night. The No. 2 line with Phillip Danault at centre has carried the load lately. Danault had a hat trick in the 4-3 come-from-behind overtime victory in Vegas and Tomas Tatar picked up his 13th and 14th goals against Florida.
The goalies: Niemi shook off some rust to win Friday night and said he’s ready to play a second game in two nights in Tampa. He has played consecutive games twice this season, but this is his first back-to-back situation. Expect the Lightning to counter with Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was the early favourite to win the Vézina Trophy before he broke a bone in his foot in November. Vasilevskiy gave up five goals Thursday night, but he made an acrobatic game-saving stop that allowed the Lightning to win in overtime. He has a 13-3-2 record with a 2.54 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage, which ranks sixth in the NHL.
Firepower to spare: The Lightning has the most explosive offence in the league with an average of 4.13 goals a game, as well as the No. 1 power play, with a success rate of 29.8 per cent. Nikita Kucherov is the top scorer in the NHL with 61 points, including 17 goals. Brayden Point and Seven Stamkos are the top goal-scorers on the team with 22 each and Point leads in power-play goals with 10. Tyler Johnson has 17 goals, while Quebecers Yanni Gourde and Alex Killorn have each added 10. The defence is led by 2018 Norris Trophy winner Victor Hedman and former Canadiens prospect Ryan McDonagh.