Lightning-Canadiens Preview


Leading the league in goals, the Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos remains one of the most potent scoring forwards in the NHL.

If his latest effort is any indication, center Lars Eller could provide the Montreal Canadiens with a formidable offensive threat of their own.

Montreal looks to post back-to-back wins for just the second time in nearly two months Saturday night against visiting Tampa Bay.

Eller, who entered Wednesday with just 13 goals in 120 career games, broke out in a big way - scoring four times while adding an assist during Wednesday's 7-3 win over Winnipeg.

"My goal is to just try and take the positives with me," he told the team's official website. "I'm not going to be a different player or anything, I just want to keep doing the same things and hopefully the puck will keep on going in."

Montreal (15-18-7), which ranks in the middle of the pack with 2.63 goals per game, is last in the Northeast Division with 37 points. While the Canadiens would surely love to see Eller build on his tremendous performance, they figure to benefit all the more with captain and right wing Brian Gionta returning.

Gionta, who scored a combined 57 goals to lead the team in scoring in each of the previous two seasons, has missed the last 11 games with a lower-body injury but could return Saturday. The Canadiens have gone 4-7-0 during his absence.

"This has been a tough two or three weeks for us - a lot of things went on and it was hard having to watch that from the outside. I'm really anxious to get back," he said. " ... There's still half the season left and it'll be a good time to come back.

"This is our time to make a big push. This time of the year usually decides whether you're going to be in contention or not at the end of the season."

Tampa Bay (17-19-3) also finds itself on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture looking in with 37 points as it continues to struggle on the road. Two nights after falling 7-3 at Toronto, the Lighting dropped the second leg of their current three-game trip, falling 4-1 at Ottawa on Thursday.

Tampa Bay, which has lost four straight on the road, has surrendered 45 goals in dropping nine of 11 (2-8-1) there. The Lightning have also converted just 2 of 39 power-play chances in those games, and while Stamkos leads the league with 28 goals, he has just one power-play goal on the road this season.

"This time of the year it's playoffs for us," captain Vincent Lecavalier said. "We can't slide down more. You know, a playoff game, you lose one - yeah, it's tough, but you've got to bounce back and come out the same way against Montreal. We played 60 good minutes, a solid game, and we'll go from there."

Stamkos' tally Thursday extended his goal-scoring streak to five games, during which he has eight goals. He has six goals and four assists over his last seven meetings with Montreal.

Canadiens goalie Carey Price, who made 24 saves Wednesday, has gone 2-6-0 with a 3.42 GAA over his last eight games. He is 2-3-1 with a 3.16 GAA in his six most recent matchups versus the Lightning.

Dwayne Roloson turned away 20 of 23 shots for Tampa Bay on Thursday. Roloson, 0-5-0 with a 4.89 GAA over his last eight appearances, is 0-2-3 with one tie lifetime at Montreal.

Teammate Mathieu Garon spent the first four years of his career with the Canadiens and has prevailed in each of his last two starts against his former team. He stopped 31 shots in a 4-3 win Dec. 29.