Dec 29, 2013; Sunrise, FL, USA; Florida Panthers center Nick Bjugstad (27) and Montreal Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty (67) battle for the puck in the first period at BB&T Center. Robert Mayer USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Florida Panthers At Montreal Canadiens

Florida Panthers: 16-20-6, 38 pts (7th in Atlantic) at Montreal Canadiens: 24-14-5, 53 pts (3rd in Atlantic) 

The Florida Panthers will look to jump out to a fast start on their three game road trip when they take on the Montreal Canadiens tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET at The Bell Centre.

The Panthers have gotten the best of the Canadiens so far this season wining the first two match ups against their new Atlantic Division Rivals. Florida edged the Canadiens in Montreal 2-1 in the teams’ first meeting on December 15 and just last week the Panthers posted a resounding 4-1 victory over the Canadiens in Sunrise.

The Cats will look to pile on the suddenly struggling Canadiens who have lost three of their last four games (1-1-2). The Panthers on the other hand will look to build off a thrilling 5-4 shootout victory against the Predators on Saturday. Florida has now picked up points in three straight games (2-0-1).

The Panthers have been experiencing a bit of flux in their defense corps over the past couple days. Ed Jovanovski returned to the Panthers lineup Saturday against Nashville after missing nine months with a hip injury. Alex Petrovic, Jovo’s partner versus Nashville, left Saturday’s game with an upper body  injury and he will not travel with the Panthers on their current road trip. Dylan Olsen missed Saturday’s game against the Preds and he will be out again tonight against Montreal. He could be back at some point in the next three games. The good news is, the Panthers may get Erik Gudbranson back tonight. Gudbranson has been out since undergoing orbital bone surgery to repair damages from a puck he took to the face on December 20 against Winnipeg. If he plays tonight he will be wearing a steel cage to protect the injury.

The Panthers have recently been led on offense by the line consisting of Brad Boyes, Aleksander Barkov and Sean Bergenheim, or as Steve Goldstein likes to call them ad nauseam, the Killer B’s. The trio tallied five points on Saturday against Nashville with two assists from Barkov, a goal from Bergenheim and a goal and an assist from Boyes. The points for Barkov and Boyes extended their current point streaks to five and three games respectively while Bergenheim has scored five goals in his last five games. The 18-year-old rookie, Aleksander Barkov now leads the Panthers in scoring this season with 21 points (7-14-21) in 42 games.

Montreal is led in scoring by Team Canada olympic-hopeful P.K. Subban who has 33 points in 43 games (7-26-33). Max Pacioretty, who was recently named to Team USA, leads the Canadiens with 19 goals this season. In net the Canadiens feature the 26-year-old Carey Price who has 19 wins this season, a 2.26 GAA and a .927 SV%. Price will probably be one of the three goaltenders to make the final cut for the Canadian olympic roster.

Here is a look at the roster I could see the Panthers using tonight against Montreal:

Fleischmann-Bjugstad-Upshall

Boyes-Barkov-Bergenheim

Huberdeau-Goc-Kopecky

Barch-Matthias-Hayes

Campbell-Gilbert

Kulikov-Weaver

Jovanovski-Gudbranson

Tim Thomas

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Tags: Aleksander Barkov Florida Panthers

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