|Lightning show moves to Montreal to face struggling Habs|
After a pair of victories by shutout in the first two contests of their five-game road trip, the NHL-leading Tampa Bay Lightning will be looking to keep their road trip perfect against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.
Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy is leading the way for the Lightning (29-8-2) with shutouts in his past two starts, the last 2-0 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and three in the past four games.
Vasilevskiy's shutout streak of 164:29 is the second-longest of his career (178:02 in November 2016). He leads the NHL with 26 victories, and a 1.95 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage among goaltenders who have played at least 15 games.
"He's been our best player all year," Tampa Bay winger Chris Kunitz told tampabay.com. "He might be quietly going about it, but not in this locker room. We know how hard he works. He keeps the composure of our team. When he's unfazed, our team just goes out and keeps playing the same way."
"Our guys are playing well all season long," Vasilevskiy said on NHL.com. "Sometimes I help them, sometimes they help me. We scored two huge goals in the second (against the Maple Leafs) and just played very simple. That's why we got a second shutout in a row. It's all about our team, we've played really well the last couple games."
At the other end of the ice, forward Nikita Kucherov saw his 10-game point streak come to an end against the Maple Leafs on Tuesday, but he still leads the league with 56 points.
Montreal will try to end a five-game losing streak after it lost 4-1 to the San Jose Sharks at home Tuesday.
The news isn't good on the injury front. Canadiens coach Claude Julien said top defenseman Shea Weber, who has been out with a foot injury and hasn't played since Dec. 16, is wearing a protective boot. He is "doubtful" until after the all-star break, which is Jan. 26-29.
Forward Alex Galchenyuk missed practice Wednesday because of the flu. His status for the game Thursday against the Lightning is not known.
Julien and Montreal forward Brendan Gallagher, who has been one of the bright spots for the Canadiens this season with a team-leading 15 goals, said they were encouraged with the work ethic at Wednesday's practice in preparation to play the Lightning.
"There's a way out of it. There's always a solution," Gallagher told the team's website. "It's just about working hard and continuing to find that. As a group, today was a good day of pushing each other to get better, but it needs to continue day after day.
"Practices are big for us right now. When you're going through tough times, practices are where you can up your compete level and your battle level and that carries over. If you can push each other to improve, it's only going to make us stronger as a group. This is a test for us."
Julien said he saw a difference in the level of the Canadiens work ethic Wednesday.
"Today's practice was intense," he said. "It's important to keep our morale as high as possible in the hope of changing the outcome in games. Today I was happy to see the guys work hard and come to the rink with a good attitude. I saw a difference today."
A positive development was goaltender Al Montoya, who has been out since Nov. 4 with a concussion, skated for the second day in a row and reported he is making progress, but is not close to returning.