National Hockey League

      ***** National Hockey League Previews from The Sports Network *****
                                Monday, March 30
                              (All times Eastern)
 ( - The Montreal Canadiens clinched a playoff berth over the
 weekend, but they still have something to prove against the rival Tampa Bay
 The Canadiens hope to avoid a season sweep at the hands of the Lightning and
 also extend their lead atop the Atlantic Division when the clubs meet for a
 final regular-season battle Monday at the Bell Centre.
 Montreal swept the Bolts out of the playoffs last spring, taking the first-
 round series in four games. However, Tampa has claimed five straight in the
 regular season, including the first four matchups in 2014-15.
 The Habs and Lightning each have six games left on their schedule and Montreal
 is holding a three-point edge for first place.
 Montreal has 102 points on the season and punched its ticket to the playoffs
 after beating the Florida Panthers in overtime on Saturday. Max Pacioretty
 scored at 2:59 of the extra session to lift the Canadiens into the playoffs
 with the 3-2 victory.
 The Habs snapped a two-game slide by winning the first test of a three-game
 homestand and improved to 4-1-1 over their last six trips to the ice.
 "At the end of the day, we need to get momentum going into the playoffs,"
 Pacioretty said. "It's a good step in the right direction, but we know we have
 work to do."
 Vincent Trocheck was called for high sticking at 2:52 and the Canadiens won
 the ensuing faceoff. Working the puck down to the low right side, David
 Desharnais received it there and quickly whipped it to the front where
 Pacioretty pushed it in for the win.
 Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller also scored, while Carey Price stopped 21 shots
 for the Canadiens, who have won three straight at home and are 25-8-5 at the
 Bell Centre this season.
 Montreal clinched a postseason berth for a third straight season and is
 seeking its second division title in three years.
 Tampa Bay has lost two straight in regulation on the heels of a four-game
 winning streak, but the club is on the verge of claiming a playoff spot
 for the second straight spring. It only needs a point from tonight's contest
 to punch a ticket to the postseason tournament.
 After losing 3-2 to visiting Nashville on Thursday, the Bolts were shut out
 4-0 Saturday in Detroit. Red Wings backup goaltender Petr Mrazek made 23 saves
 to keep Tampa off the scoreboard.
 Ben Bishop allowed three goals on 22 shots for the Lightning, who were shut
 out for the first time since Dec. 14, 2013.
 "The last couple games, we're inventing new ways of watching pucks go in,"
 said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. "It's a little frustrating."
 Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison and forward Cedric Paquette left the game
 with injuries. Garrison is out 3-to-4 weeks with an upper-body injury, while
 Paquette will be a game-time decision for Monday.
 Forward Tyler Johnson and Andrej Sustr also sustained injuries in the loss to
 Detroit. Sustr is expected to miss 1-to-2 weeks and Johnson is day-to-day.
 Tampa recalled forward Jonathan Marchessault and defenseman Luke Witkowski
 from Syracuse of the AHL on Monday morning.
 Tampa has struggled on the road this season and is playing the second test of
 a five-game trip tonight. The Lightning are 16-15-6 as the guest compared to a
 superb 30-8-1 mark at home, but the Bolts own a 2-0 record at the Bell Centre
 this season. They have won four in a row in Montreal, not including last
 season's playoff battle.
 Bishop is expected to start tonight for the Lightning, who also play tomorrow
 in Toronto. He is 9-1-2 with a 1.42 goals against average in his career versus
 Price is 10-5-5 with a 2.46 GAA in 25 regular-season matchups versus Tampa.
 VANCOUVER CANUCKS (43-27-5) AT ST. LOUIS BLUES (46-22-7), 8 P.M.
 ( - The St. Louis Blues hope to punch a ticket to the
 playoffs for a fourth straight spring on Monday. The Vancouver Canucks,
 meanwhile, have a little more work left to get back to the postseason.
 The clubs will face each other on Monday night when the Blues host a Western
 Conference battle at Scottrade Center.
 The Blues have 99 points, leaving them three behind Nashville for the
 Central Division lead. The Predators have officially locked up a postseason
 Vancouver is at 91 points, two ahead of Calgary for second place in the
 Pacific Division and only three ahead of Los Angeles, which is just outside of
 the playoff picture. Both teams chasing the Canucks play tonight, with the
 Flames visiting Dallas and Los Angeles on the road against Chicago.
 The Canucks have not helped their case much over the last two games, earning
 just a point from the final two tilts of a three-game homestand. Vancouver
 began the stay at Rogers Arena with a 5-2 win over Winnipeg for its third
 straight victory, but has since lost to Colorado and Dallas.
 The Avalanche posted a 4-1 win over the Canucks on Thursday, but Vancouver was
 able to score a goal late in regulation to earn a point from Dallas on
 The Stars scored two straight goals in the third period to take a 3-2 lead
 over the Canucks, but Radim Vrbata notched a power-play marker with 1:32 left
 in regulation to even things. However, John Klingberg would give the extra
 point to Dallas when he tallied with 47 seconds left in the extra session.
 Vrbata's goal was his 30th of the season, marking the second time he's reached
 the 30-goal plateau. Vrbata also recorded an assist on Saturday.
 Nick Bonino added a goal and a helper as well and Chris Higgins scored the
 other goal for the Canucks. Eddie Lack stopped 36-of-40 shots in defeat.
 "We control our own destiny and have a big week coming up," Bonino said.
 This evening's test kicks off a four-game road trip for Vancouver, which owns
 a solid 22-12-3 mark as the guest. The Canucks also will visit Nashville,
 Chicago and Winnipeg during this swing before ending the regular season with a
 three-game homestand.
 The Blues have lost four of their last five games and failed to gain a point
 from Saturday's 4-2 home setback against Columbus. It marked the eighth
 straight road win for the Blue Jackets.
 Brian Elliott gave up three goals on 16 shots for the Blues, who returned to
 Scottrade Center following a 3-1-2 road trip. They fell to 24-10-2 as the
 St. Louis ranks ninth in the NHL in goals against (2.43 goals per game) but
 has allowed 17 goals over the last five games.
 "We can't be offense, offense, offense. You've got to keep it out of your net,
 too. Starting with me, we've got to be better," Elliott said.
 Patrik Berglund posted a goal and an assist in Saturday's loss, while Vladimir
 Tarasenko recorded his 36th marker of the season.
 St. Louis also received mixed news on the injury front Saturday. Defenseman
 Kevin Shattenkirk was back in the lineup after an abdominal injury forced him
 to miss 25 games, but forward Alexander Steen left in the first period with a
 lower-body injury and didn't return.
 Steen, who is second to Tarasenko on the team with 62 points, could play in
 tonight's game. Forward T.J. Oshie is expected to return this evening after
 sitting out Saturday with flu-like symptoms.
 St. Louis is playing the middle part of a three-game homestand tonight and
 will cap the residency Thursday against Calgary.
 Vancouver has won three of its last four at Scottrade Center and has claimed
 five straight in the series overall. The Canucks have gained a point from 10
 straight games in this series (8-0-2).
 CALGARY FLAMES (41-28-7) AT DALLAS STARS (37-29-10), 8:30 P.M.
 ( - The Calgary Flames will try to hold onto their playoff
 position when they visit the surging Dallas Stars for Monday's battle at
 American Airlines Center.
 With 89 points, Calgary enters Monday with the slimmest of leads over Los
 Angeles for the third and final postseason berth from the Pacific Division.
 Although the Kings are one point behind the Flames, they have played one fewer
 game and are also in action tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks.
 Calgary has six games remaining on its schedule and its penultimate test of
 the regular season will be at home versus L.A. on April 9.
 The Flames halted a two-game slide with Sunday's much-needed 5-2 victory in
 Nashville. It was just the third victory in eight games for Calgary, which is
 attempting to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
 Calgary lost the opener of an important five-game road trip with Friday's 4-2
 setback against Minnesota, but Lance Bouma scored a pair of goals to help the
 Flames pick up a victory in Music City.
 Jiri Hudler posted a goal and an assist to help the Flames get at least a
 point for the fifth time in their last six games (3-1-2).
 "There's a lot of work to do here, and the main goal is to make the playoffs,"
 said Bouma. "We're taking every game like it's a Game 7 and everyone is really
 enjoying it."
 Calgary also got goals from Kris Russell and Michael Ferland, and Jonas Hiller
 made 27 saves in the win.
 The Flames are 20-15-2 as the visiting club this season. They will continue
 this swing Thursday in St. Louis before ending it Saturday against Edmonton.
 Despite a tremendous run over the last few weeks, the Stars' window to make
 the playoffs is closing rapidly. Dallas has won 10 of its last 13 games, but
 in all likelihood the club won't be returning to the postseason after ending a
 five-season playoff drought last spring.
 With 84 points, the Stars are six behind the Winnipeg Jets for the last wild
 card spot in the West. Dallas only has six games left on its schedule.
 The Stars won for the fifth time in six games with Saturday's 4-3 overtime
 victory in Vancouver.
 Dallas scored two straight goals to begin the third period and take a 3-2
 lead. Radim Vrbata, however, notched a power-play marker with 1:32 left in
 regulation to even things for the Canucks.
 John Klingberg would give the extra point to Dallas when he tallied with 47
 seconds left in the extra session. The impressive rookie defenseman took a
 pass from Trevor Daley, stepped up into the slot and fired a shot over Eddie
 Lack's blocker to seal the outcome.
 Klingberg leads all rookie blueliners with 38 points on 11 goals and 27
 assists in 59 games. Florida's Aaron Ekblad, the No. 1 overall pick at last
 summer's draft, has 35 points in 74 games.
 Tyler Seguin tallied a goal and an assist, Jamie Benn and Patrick Eaves also
 lit the lamp for the Stars. Daley and Cody Eakin each supplied two assists for
 Dallas, which bounced back from Friday's 4-0 loss to Edmonton. Daley returned
 to the lineup after missing 11 games with a knee injury.
 "It's a gutsy effort by our team," said Benn. "We found a way to win in
 Kari Lehtonen made 32 saves for Dallas, improving his record to 8-2-0 over his
 last 10 starts.
 The Stars are home for two games and won't play again until Friday's test
 against St. Louis. Dallas is 16-14-8 at home compared to a 21-15-2 mark on the
 Dallas will try to complete a three-game sweep of the season series tonight.
 The Stars are 5-0-1 in the last six overall meetings versus Calgary, but the
 clubs have split the last four encounters at American Airlines Center.
 LOS ANGELES KINGS (37-24-14) AT CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (45-24-6), 8:30 P.M.
 ( - The Los Angeles Kings continue their see-saw battle for
 a playoff spot on Monday night when they wrap a five-game road trip against
 the Chicago Blackhawks.
 The Kings won the first three contests of their swing, with Thursday's triumph
 over the New York Islanders giving them a 6-0-1 mark over their past six on
 the road, but that run came to an end with Saturday's 4-1 setback to the
 Minnesota Wild.
 With Calgary beating the Nashville Predators on Sunday, the Kings dropped a
 point behind the Flames for third place in the Pacific Division with a game in
 hand. Calgary also is in action tonight as it visits the Dallas Stars.
 Dwight King scored his first goal in 20 games in Saturday's loss, but Jonathan
 Quick was pulled after 20 minutes, having allowed two goals on nine shots
 faced. Backup Martin Jones halted 9-of-10 shots fired his way in relief.
 "We were just a little bit slow in the first period," Jones said. "They're a
 good hockey team and we have to play a full 60 minutes against them."
 Los Angeles also is two points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild
 card spot in the Western Conference and figures to go with Quick in net
 tonight. He is 7-13-1 lifetime versus the Blackhawks with a 2.79 goals against
 average, .908 save percentage and two shutouts in 21 games (20 starts).
 With seven games left on their regular-season schedule, the Blackhawks don't
 have a ton of room for error either. They own just a one-point edge over the
 Wild for third place in the Central Division with a game in hand and also are
 three back of the second-place St. Louis Blues.
 Chicago picked up a big win on Sunday, topping Winnipeg 4-3 on Jonathan Toews'
 winner with 30.8 seconds to play. He redirected a shot from Niklas Hjalmarsson
 for his 25th of the season.
 Patrick Sharp, Andrew Shaw and Brad Richards all scored for the Blackhawks,
 who had lost three of four coming in. Corey Crawford ended with 31 saves.
 "It was nice to see our guys creating that much offense," said Blackhawks
 goalie Corey Crawford. "We were definitely feeling it tonight."
 Coming down the stretch, the Blackhawks may stick with Crawford in net for a
 second night in a row. He is 7-4-0 versus the Kings with a 2.70 GAA and .904
 save percentage in 11 games.
 The Blackhawks had won four straight against the Kings before a 4-3 setback in
 Los Angeles on Jan. 28. They still have won 13 of the previous 18 meetings
 overall and nine of the last 12 played in Chicago.
 ( - Colorado may be running out of time to get back into the
 playoff mix, but the Avalanche will try to keep their chances alive with a
 third straight win on Monday night as they take on the Edmonton Oilers.
 The Avalanche followed up a 2-2-1 road trip with a third consecutive victory
 at home on Saturday night, topping the Buffalo Sabres 5-3. Matt Duchene led
 the charge with a goal and two assists, while four other players lit the lamp.
 Tyson Barrie, John Mitchell, Marc-Andre Cliche and Brad Stuart also scored,
 Jarome Iginla chipped in with three assists and Semyon Varlamov made 35 saves
 for the Avalanche, who are eight points behind the idle Winnipeg Jets for the
 second wild card spot in the Western Conference. Colorado has a game in hand.
 "I played no different tonight than I have been, but tonight everything
 clicked," said Duchene. "It was a tough road trip, hopefully, it's not too
 late for us."
 Iginla's three-point night allowed him to move past Canadiens great Jean
 Beliveau for sole possession of 40th place on the NHL's all-time scoring list.
 The Oilers have 57 points on the season, putting them ahead of only the
 Arizona Coyotes (54) and Buffalo Sabres (48) in the league's standings. That
 has reduced them to the role of spoiler, something they pulled off last
 Wednesday with a 4-3 home win over the Avalanche.
 Derek Roy had the winner with 9:18 left to play as the Oilers regrouped after
 blowing a 3-0 first-period lead. Martin Marincin, Jordan Eberle and Taylor
 Hall had the early goals and Ben Scrivens posted 41 saves as Edmonton beat
 Colorado for the first time in the past four meetings.
 Ryan O'Reilly aided the Avalanche's comeback effort with a goal and two
 assists, while Varlamov yielded three goals on seven shots before getting
 lifted after just 9:36 of action. Reto Berra yielded a goal on 27 shots faced
 in relief.
 Varlamov is expected to start tonight and is 6-8-0 with a 3.25 goals against
 average and .325 save percentage in 15 meetings.
 Colorado has won five of its past seven at home in this series.
 The Oilers followed up the win over the Avs with a 4-0 triumph versus the
 Dallas Stars on Friday, giving Edmonton back-to-back wins for the first time
 since Jan. 17-20.
 Edmonton has not won three in a row since a four-game win streak from Oct.
 Richard Bachman posted 29 saves for his first shutout of the season and second
 of his career. Bachman, who was a fourth-round draft pick of the Stars in 2006
 and played parts of three seasons with the team, got his first win since April
 "Richard was unbelievable. He was perfect," Edmonton interim head coach Todd
 Nelson said. "Our team was better in front of him during the third."
 Rookie Andrew Miller scored his first NHL goal on a penalty shot, Benoit
 Pouliot tallied a goal and an assist and Roy and Eberle also lit the lamp for
 the Oilers, who went 4-1-1 on a six-game homestand.
 Eberle has seven goals and 16 assists over his past 10 games, while Ryan
 Nugent-Hopkins recorded a helper to give him four goals and four assists over
 his past six contests.
 Edmonton will play its next three on the road and Scrivens may get the start
 tonight. He is 1-1-2 versus the Avs with a 2.18 GAA and .935 save percentage.
 BUFFALO SABRES (20-47-8) AT ARIZONA COYOTES (23-45-8), 10 P.M.
 ( - It's a rare case of winning actually being a loss.
 The Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes, the bottom two teams in the NHL
 standings, meet for the second time in five days on Monday night in a matchup
 that could help factor into the upcoming draft.
 Call it "Connor McDavid Bowl II" as the Sabres and Coyotes meet less than a
 week after Arizona picked up a 4-3 overtime victory against hosting Buffalo on
 Thursday. Sam Gagner had the winner 56 seconds into the bonus frame, cashing
 in on a power play after Buffalo's Mike Weber took a tripping penalty with 30
 seconds to go in regulation.
 Buffalo fans certainly knew what was at stake as they cheered the win by
 Arizona. Weber heard the cheers and called it "extremely frustrating" and "a
 whole new low."
 "I've always spoken extremely high of the fans," Weber said. "I don't even
 know if disappointed is the word. ... They scored (the first goal) and our
 fans are cheering. Late penalty, they cheer. They cheer when they score to win
 the game. ...
 "We don't want to be here. We understand where we are. We understand what this
 team's doing, what the organization's doing, the place we put ourselves in,
 but I've never been a part of something like that where the away team comes
 into a home building and (our fans are) cheering for them."
 One has to wonder how those in attendance for tonight's game will react. The
 Sabres are last in the NHL with 48 points, with the Coyotes just ahead at 54
 Of course, the team that finishes with the fewest points will have the best
 chance at winning the draft lottery and getting to select first overall. That
 selection will likely be Canadian prodigy McDavid, though American and fellow
 center Jack Eichel is considered a solid consolation prize.
 The Coyotes win over the Sabres last week was just their second in the past
 nine games of this series and Buffalo has won four straight as the guest.
 Arizona followed up its win over Buffalo with a 3-2 setback in Pittsburgh on
 Saturday, snapping a two-game slide. Tye McGinn and Tobias Rieder had the
 goals and Mike Smith yielded three goals on 46 shots in defeat.
 "I thought we started the game pretty well and Smith got us some good saves,"
 said Arizona head coach Dave Tippett. "They were able to capitalize on some of
 our mistakes and we couldn't overcome it."
 The Sabres' loss to the Coyotes is part of a current five-game slide, one that
 was extended with Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche. Defenseman
 Andrej Meszaros scored twice and fellow blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen notched a
 goal and an assist.
 Anders Lindback gave up two goals on 12 shots in the first period and Matt
 Hackett allowed three goals in relief on 10 shots faced.
 "You hate to have to play for pride now, but that's what we have to do,"
 Meszaros said. "We have to keep playing hard."
 Buffalo has lost 12 of its past 13 games (1-9-3) and hopes to have forward
 Tyler Ennis back from an upper-body injury that held him out of Saturday's
 03/30 11:53:57 ET

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