With both teams fighting for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, the Canadiens square off against the Flyers tonight at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. The Canadiens will line up against a Flyers offense that has been scoring at will as of late, and who will only get stronger with the long awaited return of Daniel Briere. Briere will look to seamlessly slip into the lineup, as he has missed the last 35 games with groin problems.
(Edit: Briere will not be in the lineup tonight as Timonen is out with the flu. This leaves the Flyers with only 5 healthy defenseman, so the Flyers will not send Kukkonen to the AHL, as previously thought, in order to make room for Briere. This will give Briere an extra day to recover.)
As for the Canadiens, they come into Philly having lost 10 of their last 11 on the road, looking to move within 2 points of the Flyers for fourth in the East. The Canadiens play has improved steadily over their last four games and they need to continue to receive a full team effort every night in order to keep them from slipping further down the standings.
The resurgence of Tomas Plekanec has been a welcome sight to Canadiens fans, as has the strong play of Jaroslav Halak in net. Halak stepped up his game when the Habs needed it most and has been rock solid in his last 2 starts, winning both and posting a shutout against Vancouver.
The addition of Mathieu Schneider has given the Montreal power-play something it has been lacking since the departure of both Sheldon Souray and Mark Streit, a big shot from the blueline. He also stays composed, doesn't panic, and allows Andrei Markov to be more effective as a play-maker. Since the trade, Montreal is 8 for 19 on the powerplay.
The Canadiens lost both of their playoff games in Philadelphia last season, but have won their last five regular season visits. This matchup should be a fast-paced offensive and physical affair, with both teams looking to cement their place in the Eastern Conference standings.
The puck drops on this one at 7:00 PM ET and fans can catch the game on TSN, RDS, or CSN-PHI.