It’s official now that the Canadiens will play the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the playoffs, and the Habs can clinch home-ice advantage Thursday night.
Montreal (45-27-8) has a three-point lead over Tampa (43-27-9) in the Atlantic Division with the Lightning holding a game in hand. The Canadiens have two games remaining in the regular season and the Lightning has three.
The Canadiens can clinch the No. 2 seed in the Atlantic Division with a win of any kind over the New York Islanders Thursday night at the Bell Centre (7:30 p.m., TSN-HABS, RDS, TSN Radio 690) and a loss of any kind by the Lightning against the Philadelphia Flyers in Tampa. The Canadiens could also clinch home-ice advantage with an overtime or shootout loss to the Islanders and a regulation loss by the Lightning against the Flyers.
The Canadiens play their final regular-season game Saturday at the Bell Centre against the New York Rangers. The Lightning’s final two games are Friday night at home against Columbus and Saturday afternoon in Washington.
Tom Jones of the Tampa Bay Times reported that Lightning goalie Ben Bishop could be out for as long as three weeks with what his agent says is an elbow injury. Bishop has been in goal for 37 of the Lightning’s 43 victories this season. Anders Lindback, who has a 6-12-2 record with a 3.11 goals-against average and a .884 save percentage, will fill in for Bishop.
The Canadiens held a optional morning skate Thursday in Brossard with only a few players taking part and there was no media availability. Goaltender Dustin Tokarski, who served as the backup to Peter Budaj for Wednesday’s 3-2 overtime loss in Chicago, was returned to the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs Thursday afternoon. Carey Price, who didn’t make the trip to Chicago, is expected to start in goal against the Islanders. Defenceman Douglas Murray, who has finished serving a three-game suspension, will be available to face the Isles.
Following Wednesday’s game in Chicago, forward Alex Galchenyuk was reportedly spotted leaving the arena on crutches after suffering a lower-body injury early in the first period. There are also reports Galchenyuk won’t be ready to play when the playoffs begin next week.
The Canadiens have won all three previous games against the Islanders this season.
Montreal will be the only Canadian team in the playoffs this year, the first time that has happened since 1973, when the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup.
(Gazette file photo/John Kenney)