Season series: This is the sixth and final game of the season between two old foes. The Habs lead the series three games to two with a 4-3 overtime win on Oct. 1, a 5-4 shootout victory on Oct. 31 and a 3-2 overtime win on Dec. 26. The Leafs have the only regulation win of the series, a 3-0 shutout on Dec. 26 and in their latest meeting, they took a 3-2 victory in a shootout. John Mitchell scored the shootout winner for Toronto, while Brian Gionta had both of Montreal's regulation goals.
Big story: The Canadiens have already blown two attempts at clinching a playoff berth. They require just one point in order to start their postseason run. As their matchup against the Leafs is their last game of the regular season, the pressure is on. While they could still clinch if they lose, their destiny will be in the hands of the Bruins, the Flyers and the Rangers, who are all vying for the last three spots in the Eastern Conference.
Maple Leafs: The Leafs have lost their last three games, and their latest setback was a 5-1 lost to the Rangers in New York on Wednesday. Toronto faced a Rangers squad fighting for a playoff berth and the Maple Leafs were unable to spoil their season. The only thing they did spoil was Henrik Lundqvist's shutout, as Dion Phaneuf found the back of the net in the third period, scoring his first goal in a Leafs uniform.
"Some guys didn't play and didn't respond physically when we needed it," coach Ron Wilson said. "The Rangers were playing with the intensity you need to play with when you're on the outside looking in. They are clawing and doing everything to get in.
"They certainly didn't want to let a team like us take away their only hope."
Wilson reportedly did change his goaltender rotation a few weeks ago to allow Montreal-native Jean-Sébastien Giguère to get the start Saturday in his hometown.
"I appreciate that. It shows a lot of respect for the player," Giguère told the Montreal Gazette. "It was nice and unexpected. I was maybe going to go and ask (to play) but didn't want to rattle any feathers."
Canadiens: The Habs were bested Thursday by a Carolina squad that had nothing to lose. 'Canes captain Eric Staal recorded his 10th career hat trick and added two assists, while Chad Larose had two goals and two assists for the 5-2 victory. Gionta scored for Montreal in the second period and Marc-André Bergeron made it a one-goal game at the beginning of the third with a blast from the blue line, before Carolina would increase its lead. Jaroslav Halak finished the night with 28 saves.
"I didn't like our start. I didn't think we played well in the beginning of the game, became a little bit too passive, I thought," left wing Mike Cammalleri said. "Then we tried to pour it on, but too little, too late, and we weren't able to find goals."
Who's hot: Gionta has a goal in each of his last two games, while Bergeron has four points in his last five games and is a plus-4. … For Toronto, Mitchell has three points in his last four games.
Injury report: Montreal defenseman Paul Mara (left shoulder surgery) is expected to miss the rest of the season, while Glen Metropolit is out with a separated left shoulder/torn muscle, but the forward skated before the Habs' practice on Friday. … Leafs defensemen Mike Komisarek (shoulder surgery) and Mike Van Ryn (left knee surgery) are out for the season.
Stat pack: Giguère holds a 2-1-1 record in Montreal with a .904 save percentage and a 3.19 goals-against average. He also suited up for the Western Conference in the 2009 All-Star Game played at the Bell Centre.
Puck drop: "We didn't execute the game plan, we cheated, we gave way too many chances, we didn't play a good defensive game," Montreal coach Jacques Martin said following their loss on Thursday. "We just didn't play a good team game."
The Canadiens held a 45-minute meeting on Friday prior to a short practice.
"We talked about our situation," Martin told the Montreal Gazette. "We talked about our last game. We addressed the issues that needed to be addressed. We have an opportunity to play our biggest game of the season in front of our fans."