February 28, 2012; Tampa FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Pierre-Cedric Labrie (76) fights with Montreal Canadiens right wing Brad Staubitz (25) during the third period at Tampa Bay Times Forum. The Lightning won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Canadiens, Wild Square Off At Bell Centre

The last time these two teams met, the Canadiens were en route to an easy win. If you recall, the Canadiens visited the Wild on March 20th 2011, and with the help of a P.K Subban hat trick, won 8-1. But alas, it’s a different atmosphere this time around.

The Canadiens are in 15th place, losers of their last five, and 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. They have only scored 14 times over this stretch of games. Their leading scores, and admittedly most of the time their only scorers, have run cold for the most part. Max Pacioretty, currently in a career year for scoring, has no goals (and no points) in his last 4 games. Erik Cole has only 1 point in his last six games. The pivot of that line, David Desharnais is hot however – 3 points in his last 2 games, and the only goal for the Canadiens versus the Lightning. Past that, they haven’t been getting much scoring from anyone else – 1 points in last 2 GP for Rene Bourque, 0 in 2GP for Tomas Plekanec and 0 points in 8GP for Lars Eller. It’s not much better on D. For their supposed offensive defensemen, only P.K Subban is having a difficult season but has put up 1 point in his last 2 GP, Tomas Kaberle only has 1 point in his last 4 GP, and 0 points in 4 GP for Chris Campoli. In goal, Carey Price has had a rough few outings, going 0-2-0 in his last two games, with a GAA of 2.56 and a save percentage of .889. Admittedly, not much is going well for the Canadiens, both in general and in the last stretch of games.

As for the Wild, they come into the Bell Centre having won their last matchup here. In that game, Mikko Koivu (currently injured)  scored the game winning goal on December 17th 2009. Minnesotta is also having a disappointing season, particularly since they were near the top of the conference earlier in the season before a string of inconsistency, injuries and scoring woes hit in full force. They are currently occupying the 12th spot, 6 points out of the 8th spot with 4 teams in between. They are also 3-6-1 in their last ten, but have won 3 out of their last 5 games. They are coming off a 4-0 loss to the L.A Kings. Their leading scorer for the season is Dany Heatley, but notably has no players at the 20 goal mark yet. Their closest is Heatley with 19, and Devin Setoguchi with 15. The rest of their top 6 – KoivuPierre-Marc Bouchard, and Guillaume Latendresse have been injured and have all played less than 45 games so far. Interestingly, Kyle Brodziak is near the top of their scoring list, with 16 goals and 31 points, as well as Matt Cullen with 10 goals and 37 points. The big problem with the Wild is goal scoring, having scored only 139, which is second to worst in the West (the worst is the L.A Kings with 138); a paltry number that doubles as second worst in the league. Even the Canadiens, operating with only one real offensive line, have 164 and the lowest scoring team in the East has 148 goals for. The Wild fare slightly better at not giving up goals, where their 167 goals against is better than a number of teams currently placed in the top 8 of both conferences: Dallas (168), Chicago (193) in the West, and only bested by Boston, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh in the East.

So tonight, we have two teams that can’t score, but one that can defend slightly better than the other. Montreal is slightly better at scoring, though they have run cold as of late, and Minnesota is slightly better at keeping pucks out their net. The Wild will be playing without Mikko Koivu and Guillaume Latendresse, while the Canadiens only major injury right now is Brian Gionta (yes, Andrei Markov is injured, but I digress). On a side note, tonight marks the homecoming of Brad Staubitz to the team he was claimed on re-entry waivers from, which I’m sure RDS is commemorating in light of Latendresse‘s absence (right? RIGHT?).

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Canadiens avoid 6 losses in a row and win one tonight. In overtime.

The puck drops at 7:00pm.

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