Game Day: Canadiens @ Panthers

The Montreal Canadiens finish up a six-game road trip in Sunrise, Florida tonight as they face the Panthers in the BankAtlantic Center. This road-trip has been a miserable one for the Canadiens, as they have dropped four out of five games so far. Tonight they will try to end 2011 with a win, something that hasn't come easy to them this season.

 

In seasons past, this game might be an easy win for the Canadiens, but not this year. This year, the Canadiens (14-17-7) have been around the bottom of the Eastern Conference for the majority of the season. Meanwhile, the Florida Panthers (19-12-7) have been in a playoff spot for quite some time now, and are currently tops in their division with 45 points. That being said, the Panthers have also lost four of their last five games, including a 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Friday night. The Panthers need this win to distance themselves from other divisional rivals such as the Capitals and Jets, who have been closing in on their division lead.

 

Despite the Canadiens win/loss performance on this road-trip, it hasn't been all bad. In the game they did win against the Ottawa Senators, it was in blow-out fashion. In the next game against Tampa Bay, things were going the Habs way for a while until another blown lead cost le club de hockey two points. Even though the Canadiens lost to the Lightning, Habs fans were happy to see the re-emergence of Mike Cammalleri, who seems to have finally found his game again. The Habs sniper has goals in consecutive games, along with off-season acquisition Erik Cole. Swiss defenseman Rafael Diaz has also been in fine form, with five assists in two games.

 

Injuries continue to plague both the Canadiens and the Panthers. For the Cats, players such as Jack Skille, Scottie Upshall, Mikael Samuelsson, Marco Sturm, Marcel Goc, and Sean Bergenheim are all on the injured reserve. The Canadiens are without Andrei Markov, Scott Gomez, RyanWhite and captain Brian Gionta. On the bright side for the Panthers, Stephen Weiss returned from injury last night against the Rangers.

 

This game will be an important one for both teams. If the Canadiens are ever going to turn it around, this has to be the time. After tonight it will be a new year, and a chance for the Canadiens to put the first half of this season behind them. For the Panthers, this game is vital in order to hold off the Jets, who are just four points away from taking the Panthers lead in the Southeast.

 

The starting goaltenders are expected to be Carey Price and Jose Theodore.

 

The puck drops at 7:00 PM ET, and is available on CBC and RDS.