The Tampa Bay Lightning moved into second place ahead of the Canadiens in the Atlantic Division with a 3-2 win over the visiting Columbus Jackets Friday night.
Kristers Gudlevskis, who made 55 saves for Latvia against Canada at the Sochi Olympics, stopped 36 shots in his NHL debut for the Lightning, who improved to 45-27-9 for 99 points. The Canadiens (45-28-8) have 98 points. The team that finishes second in the division will have home-ice advantage in the first-round playoff series between the Canadiens and Lightning.
The Canadiens play their final regular-season game Saturday night at the Bell Centre against the New York Rangers (7 p.m., CBC, RDS, TSN Radio 690), while the Lightning plays its final game Sunday afternoon in Washington.
Lars Eller, who is sick with the flu, didn’t practise with the Canadiens Friday in Brossard and isn’t expected to play Saturday against the Rangers. He has missed the last two games due to illness. The Canadiens called up Michael Blunden from the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs on Friday afternoon.
The Canadiens announced Friday morning that captain Brian Gionta is the 2013-14 winner of the Jacques Beauchamp-Molson Trophy, which is awarded annually to the member of the team who played a dominant role during the regular season without earning any particular honour. Brandon Prust was the winner last season.
“I was glad that he won that honour because he showed a lot of character and leadership again this year through the course of the season,” coach Michel Therrien said about Gionta.
“He’s the type of guy that’s never going to complain about his role. He’s going to do it with a lot of pride. He’s going to accept it for the benefit of the hockey team. And that, for me, it means a lot.”
Voting for the award was done my members of the media who cover the team and Gionta earned 66 points in the voting to finish ahead of Brendan Gallagher (64) and Tomas Plekanec (51). Gionta has 17 goals and 22 assists in 80 games this season and is even in plus/minus. He will be presented with the award before Saturday’s game.
The NHL announced on Friday that there won’t be any additional sanctions on Canadiens defenceman Douglas Murray, who received a major penalty and a game misconduct for checking Johan Sundstrom from behind during Thursday night’s 2-0 loss to the New York Islanders.
The Canadiens announced after Thursday’s game that Alex Galchenyuk will miss the first round of the playoffs with a lower-body injury and that defenceman Nathan Beaulieu has been returned to Hamilton.
Here’s how the lines and defence pairings looked at practice:
(Photo by John Mahoney/The Gazette)