Panthers-Canadiens Preview

The Montreal Canadiens have the most points in the NHL after

getting off to a poor start. A meeting with the Florida Panthers at

home likely won’t prevent them from continuing their strong

play.

Montreal looks to win its fifth straight overall and fifth in a

row at home over the Panthers when the teams face off for the first

time this season Saturday night.

The Canadiens have won six of seven after dropping two of their

first three, sweeping a home-and-home series against the New York

Islanders with a 3-1 road victory Friday night.

Montreal (7-2-1) has outscored opponents 14-6 during the win

streak, and Tomas Plekanec has had a hand in that success. He

scored for the third straight game Friday and has five goals and

five assists this season.

Plekanec’s 10 points have him tied for the team lead with Andrei

Kostitsyn, who had four goals and two assists in his previous three

games before being held without a point Friday.

Michael Cammalleri, who assisted on Plekanec’s goal, still

believes the Canadiens can improve despite registering 15 points to

take the early lead in the league.

“I think we would’ve liked to do some things better, but at the

end of the day we’ll take a big two points on the road,” he

said.

Florida (3-5-0), meanwhile, has had a tough time thus far on its

three-game road trip.

The Panthers suffered a controversial 3-1 loss to Toronto on

Tuesday night when backup goalie Scott Clemmensen was bowled over

by Maple Leafs forward Colton Orr on the winning goal.

Two nights later, Florida allowed five unanswered goals after

taking a 1-0 lead and fell 5-3 to Ottawa.

“I don’t think we had very much jump and they were firing,”

defenseman Dennis Wideman said. “I thought they moved the puck

really, really well. They broke out well and they came at us and we

were just a step behind the whole night.”

The Panthers allowed a season high in goals after giving up 15

in their first seven games.

“We hung (goaltender Tomas Vokoun) out to dry,” Wideman said.

“He made a lot of big saves but you have a skilled team like that

and you give them that many 2-on-1s and breakaways and stuff like

that, they’re going to score. He came up with some big saves but we

just kept giving them more and more chances.”

The Panthers are 1-4-0 on the road despite being outscored by

just three goals, and they’ve dropped their last four visits to

Montreal.

Vokoun has been in net for three of those losses at Bell Centre,

although he’s posted a 1.71 goals-against average. A ninth-round

pick in 1994 by Montreal, Vokoun is 4-7-2 with a tie and 2.54 GAA

in 16 appearances against the Canadiens.

Clemmensen is 3-0-0 with a 1.33 GAA versus Montreal.

Carey Price is likely to return to Montreal’s net after Alex

Auld beat the Islanders in his season debut Friday.

Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said defenseman Andrei Markov is

expected to make his season debut Saturday. Markov underwent knee

surgery in May after registering 34 points in a career-low 45 games

in 2009-10.

Markov had six of his 28 assists versus the Panthers as Montreal

went 3-1-0 against Florida last season.