The Florida Panthers are on their longest winning streak of the season and can wrap up a perfect homestand when they host the sputtering Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night in their final game of 2017. The Panthers have won four in a row to leapfrog Montreal into fourth place in the Atlantic Division.
Florida has surrendered only six goals during its winning streak and Thursday’s 3-2 win over Philadelphia was its third one-goal decision in that span. “We’re playing way better defensively and we have better starts,” forward Jonathan Huberdeau told reporters. “It’s been good to come back lately and get some wins.” Montreal has dropped three in a row to fall to 2-4-0 entering the final stop of its seven-game road trip. The Canadiens have managed only one goal in each of their last three defeats, but they have thrived offensively against the Panthers - winning the last four in the series by a combined 18-6 - including a 5-1 rout on Oct. 24.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, CBC, TVA, CITY (Montreal), FSN Florida
ABOUT THE CANADIENS (16-18-4): Coach Claude Julien decided to split up his top-line pairing of Jonathan Drouin and captain Max Pacioretty on Thursday. Drouin, who set up two goals in the October meeting, has only one assist in his last eight games while Pacioretty is mired in an 11-game goal drought. ”It’s not like we’re missing our chances - we’re not really getting chances, so that’s what’s getting a little frustrating,” Drouin told reporters after a 3-1 loss at Tampa Bay on Thursday.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (16-16-5): Jonathan Huberdeau offered a simple explanation for his goal-scoring tear - “I got my family here for a bit. Good food.” - after registering his fourth tally in three games to bump his season total to 13. James Reimer was lit up by Montreal for five goals two months ago, but has found a groove while making 10 consecutive starts in place of injured Roberto Luongo. Reimer owns a stellar .947 save percentage in his last six games.
1. Reimer is 5-5-2 with two shutouts and a 2.97 goals-against average versus the Canadiens.
2. Montreal has allowed at least one power-play goal in five straight games.
3. Panthers F Nick Bjugstad has a goal and four assists his last five contests.
PREDICTION: Canadiens 3, Panthers 2