Montreal Canadiens (21-9-4) at Florida Panthers (15-14-6)
|Date & Time||Thursday December 29, 2016, 7:30 PM (EST)|
The Line: Florida Panthers / Montreal Canadiens --- Over/Under:
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The Montreal Canadiens continue their road trip in Florida as they head into Sunrise to take on the Florida Panthers after a game with the Lightning last night.
The Canadiens look for a pivotal division victory over the Panthers on Thursday night and they will turn to backup goaltender and former Panthers net minder Al Montoya who has looked great in relief of Carey Price this season. Montreal has been one of the league’s best teams so far this season and they will look to back that up with a strong team effort against a Panthers team that has struggled to live up to their expectations and are currently in the midst of a funk they need to shake out of. Montreal is but 6-6-1 on the road this season and the majority of their 21 victories have come at home and with their back up in goal here and the team playing last night against a very good Tampa Bay team this could be a very competitive game between Atlantic foes. Montoya is expected to get the nod as he will go up against James Reimer who will likely give Roberto Luongo the night off.
The Panthers meanwhile look to shake off a shootout loss at home against the Maple Leafs last night as they welcome in the Canadiens for another divisional show down and they will be hard pressed to get a win against a Montreal side coming off a loss to Tampa. The Cats were picked by many to emerge out of the Atlantic as division winners after a strong campaign last year in which they made the playoffs and a budding young core of players that will put them in a good position moving forward. However, they have been underwhelming so far this season and need to get back on track with some big efforts and this one against the division leaders would be a very good start.
The Habs are 8-1 in their last nine Thursday games and 4-1 in their last five against a team with a losing record while the Panthers are 1-5 in their last six Thursday games and 1-6 in their last seven against the Eastern Conference. Montreal needs to rebound after blowing a late lead and with this shaping up to be a battle of the backups I think Montreal is in better shape here with Montoya.