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NHL on NBCSN: Lightning look to keep slim playoff hopes alive against Canadiens

Montreal Canadiens v Tampa Bay Lightning

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 28: Nikita Kucherov #86 of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Alexander Radulov #47 of the Montreal Canadiens battle for the puck during the third period at Amalie Arena on December 28, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Montreal Canadiens host the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:30 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

There’s only one game on the schedule tonight, but at least it will have a significant impact on the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

The Lightning basically need to win out, while getting help from other teams. Tampa is three points behind Toronto for the final Wild Card spot and both teams have played 80 games.

The Bolts kept themselves in the race thanks to a solid effort in last night’s huge 4-1 win against the Leafs.

To finish ahead of Toronto, they’ll need to beat the Canadiens and take care of business at home against the Sabres on Sunday evening. But that’s not all. The Lightning also need the Leafs to drop their final two home games against Pittsburgh and Columbus.

The good news, is that both of Tampa’s opponents have nothing left to play for. Buffalo is way out of the playoff picture, while the Canadiens have already locked up top spot in the Atlantic Division. The bad news, is that both of Toronto’s opponents also have nothing to play for. Pittsburgh is locked into the two seed in the Metropolitan Division, while Columbus can’t finish higher or lower than third.

“At this point, all we can do is put a little pressure on,” Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman said after the win over Toronto, per the Tampa Times. “And obviously hope that Pittsburgh and Columbus to do their jobs (beat Toronto). That’s all we can ask for.”

And let’s not forget the New York Islanders, who are still in the playoff picture as well.


For Montreal, this game will be about staying healthy and sharp heading into the postseason.

The Canadiens have been without regulars Shea Weber and Jordie Benn in their last couple of games, while Alexei Emelin sustained an injury in Wednesday’s loss to the Sabres.

So as much as the Leafs could use a favor from their oldest rival, the Habs have the luxury of resting some of their key players.

Speaking of resting players, the million-dollar question in Montreal is whether they let Carey Price play in the final two games of the regular season.

Price has suffered multiple injuries over the last few years, and with the division locked up, is there any reason for them to play him right now? Obviously, the Lightning would rather face Charlie Lindgren or Al Montoya instead of Price.

We’ll see what Claude Julien decides.