The Florida Panthers appear to have found their rhythm in recent weeks, winning six of their previous 10 National Hockey League fixtures. Now fourth in the Atlantic Division, Bob Boughner’s men will be eyeing up a potential playoff spot – especially if they can replicate their festive form over the remainder of the campaign. Conceding goals is still an issue but Florida are heading in the right direction.
Meanwhile, the Montreal Canadiens, 50/1 in the Stanley Cup outright betting, have started to slip down the pecking order – much to the dismay of their passionate supporters. With just three wins in their last 10 games, the Canadian side are heading in the opposite direction to Florida and a change in mentality is needed to succeed in the second half of the season. Don’t write them off just yet though, this is the kind of game where they will find their best form.
Momentum Building For Playoff-Seeking Panthers
As mentioned in our last Florida preview, the Panthers need to get a move on in their push to reach the postseason. With four wins on the spin, including a shutout victory over the Ottawa Senators on Christmas Eve, it would take a brave man to back against Florida at this stage of the year. You certainly wouldn’t rule anything out just yet; momentum is vital in ice hockey.
Unfortunately for Florida fans, the omens from previous contests against Montreal do not point towards a home triumph. The Canadiens have won the last
four fixtures involving the two sides but the Panthers did come out on top in five successive games before Montreal embarked on that run. It is going to be a very difficult one to predict at BB&T Center.
DANGER MAN: Jonathan Huberdeau. With 36 points in 37 NHL appearances, Huberdeau is a real talent and Florida fans will be expecting big things in this fixture. He has scored 13 goals whilst notching 23 assists and he leads the team in total points – making him the main danger to Montreal’s goal this weekend.
Huberdeau is in fantastic form, notching four points in his last three outings; including a very impressive brace against the Minnesota Wild just days before Christmas. If Huberdeau plays well, the Panthers tend to play well and he could be the difference maker here.
Canadiens Must Stop The Rot
After an impressive start to the season, Montreal are spiralling out of control in the race for the Atlantic Division title. Competing with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toro
nto Maple Leafs was always going to be difficult but Canadiens supporters will be concerned at how quickly their side have drifted out of contention.
Six defeats in their last 10 outings has affected confidence – that much is obvious. There is a general desire to succeed but Montreal need to focus on every game as it comes. Looking too far ahead will be detrimental as the Canadiens try to reduce the gap to those divisional rivals at the top.
DANGER MAN: Max Pacioretty. For Montreal, it has been about the collective more than individual talent this year and that is why no Canadiens player has scored over 21 points. If Max Pacioretty finds his best form, they could be in business here ahead of what looks to be a very difficult road game. Montreal’s main men will need to be on top form.
The Panthers don’t keep clean sheets but Florida should have enough quality to keep the visitors quiet here. Montreal are struggling to inspire confidence and a road game against the red-hot Panthers is not appealing. Look no further than a Florida win – sorry Canadiens fans…
PANTHERS 3-1 CANADIENS