Preview: Lightning look to remain unbeaten in December as Canadiens come to town
TV: FOX Sports Sun
TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 6 p.m.
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TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Lightning look to remain unbeaten in the month of December when they host the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday at Amalie Arena.
The Eastern Conference leading Lightning have posted a 10-0-1 record this month while remaining unbeaten in regulation in 13 consecutive games, tied for the second longest streak of consecutive games earning a point in franchise history. Overall, Tampa Bay has won 15 of the past 17 games, with a 15-1-1 record since Nov. 21 that has launched the Lightning to the top of the league standings, six points clear of second place Toronto.
"Our group's done a good job all year of keeping things going in the right direction and it's shown in the success we've had,'' Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "But it's only been one half here, and there's a lot of road left and we know that it's going to take a lot of work here.''
Offensively, Tampa Bay's been led by league-leading scorer Nikita Kucherov, who has nine points in his past two games to become the first player in franchise history to record at least nine points in consecutive games. Kucherov surpassed Colorado's Mikko Rantanen for the league lead.
Steven Stamkos has set a franchise record for goals in a month with 14 and is coming off back-to-back multi-goal efforts. Stamkos has climbed in to the top 10 in goal scorers with 15 goals in the past 13 games and has goals in five consecutive games.
"Things are going well (offensively) right now . . . and there's still a couple of games left this month and I'd like to continue that,'' Stamkos said. "Anytime you are having success, the puck is finding you in the right areas and you have the confidence you can put it in the net. So I'd love to continue doing that in wins. It feels a lot better when things are going well for yourself and the team and I'll look to continue that.''
While the Lightning sit atop the standings, the surprising Canadiens are just looking to stay in the top eight in the Eastern Conference. Montreal moved in to the top wild card position with Friday's 5-3 victory against Florida, one of the teams looking to track down the Canadiens in the chase for a wildcard spot.
"I think it was important for us to have a good start," Canadiens coach Claude Julien told NHL.com. "There was a big importance on both sides to this game, and we needed to have a good start, especially on the road.''
The Canadiens, however, may have to lean on goaltender Antti Niemi for an unspecified amount of time after Carey Price was placed on injured reserve with a lower body and did not leave with the team for a three-game road trip.
Niemi got the call in net against the Panthers, stopping 23 shots in his first start since giving up seven goals to Minnesota on Dec. 11.
"It's been a long time sitting on that game even if I didn't feel that bad about that game," Niemi told NHL.com. "But, yeah, obviously I've been waiting to get back to get a W. I felt pretty good in practice. I think that's the main thing, finding your game in there. So it wasn't that bad, but after a tough game like that, it's been a long time.''