Montreal (44-24-9) at Tampa Bay (38-29-9)
When: Saturday, April 1st 2017
Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa, FL
Time: 7:05 ET | TV: TVAS, FSN Sun
The Tampa Bay Lightning look to continue their surge towards the playoffs when they entertain the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night in Tampa. The Lightning, who are three points behind Boston for the second Wild Card Spot in the East, have won four straight games after Thursday’s 5-3 win over Detroit without leading scorer Nikita Kucherov (illness). Tampa Bay had Friday off, but hopes to have Kucherov (38 goals, 80 points) in the lineup for both games this weekend – including Sunday’s matchup with Dallas. Captain Steven Stamkos, who has been out over four months after knee surgery, and fellow center Tyler Johnson (lower-body) are also close to returning. Without those superstar forwards, the Lightning have still managed to produce 18 goals in the last four games. Victor Hedman has 66 points, passing Roman Hamrlik (65) for the most by a Tampa Bay defenseman in a season, while Jonathan Drouin has four goals in the last four games and shares the team lead in game-winners (six) with Kucherov.
Montreal has already clinched a postseason berth, but are now trying to capture the Atlantic Division title. The Canadiens have won three straight games, allowing four goals combined, and lead Ottawa by six points atop the division while playing one more game than the Senators. Montreal is 13-5-1 since Claude Julien replaced Michel Therrien as coach and are beginning to get production from their stars as the postseason approaches. Captain Max Pacioretty leads the way with 64 points, including four (two goals) in the last three games, and Alexander Radulov has three points in the past two games to push his total to 51. Brendan Gallagher is starting to get hot with two goals and three assists in the last two games while Tomas Plekanec had two points in the 6-2 victory over Florida on Thursday after recording the same amount in the previous 22. Defenseman Shea Weber, who is third on the team with 42 points, had a +11 rating in March after posting a -10 in February.
Tampa may be a hot team right now, but Montreal is the king of the division right now and have won five of the last six meetings with Tampa. Montreal is also playing extremely well on the road. I’ll take the better team tonight.
Pick: Canadiens -105
HEAD TO HEAD
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