Streaking Lecavalier faces Habs

Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier will put his seven-game points streak on the line Thursday night in Montreal against the injury-ravaged Canadiens.

Tampa Bay Lightning centre Vincent Lecavalier, who often looks forward to returning to his native Montreal, might find Thursday's visit particularly inviting.

Lecavalier will put his seven-game points streak on the line against a Canadiens outfit minus injured forwards Steve Begin (ribs) and Chris Higgins (ankle) along with top defenceman Sheldon Souray (sprained right wrist).

In his eighth NHL season, Lecavalier is tied with Ottawa's Jason Spezza for sixth in league scoring with 40 points. At this rate, he'll eclipse the career-high 78 points achieved in 2002-03.

Coming off a 35-goal campaign, the former No. 1 overall draft pick has 18 in his first 31 games. In a recent interview with McKeen's Hockey, Lecavalier said he has been more patient with the puck this season.

"It boils down to confidence, and sometimes when you get a goal or an assist, things really start to find their way in the back of the net," said Lecavalier, who led Tampa Bay with seven shots on goal in a 3-1 home loss to Montreal on Nov. 15.

The six-foot-four, 223-pounder has also benefited from a change inhis off-season training, whichnow includes speed biking.

"I would go 40 to 45 kilometres, three times a week [last summer]," he said. "It was something different and I enjoyed it and so far it has paid off."

While Lecavalier has thrived in the more offence-oriented NHL this season — he has eight goals and 14 points during his points streak —the Lightning have been inconsistent from Day 1.

They blew a 3-1 lead en route to a 5-4 loss in Toronto on Tuesday to slip to 1-5-1 in their last seven games. Tampa Bay is also winless in its past three on the road (0-2-1) and has one win in 10 games against Northeast Division opponents.

"We can't wilt during games, it's about letting teams surge on us and knowing how to stop it," centre Brad Richards, with three goals in his past three outings, told reporters Wednesday. "We have to mentally nip this thing and keep working hard."

General manager Jay Feaster said Wednesday he might have to trade in order to help shake his team out of its slide. Winger Vaclav Prospal, with one goal in his past 21 starts, has been rumoured as trade bait.

Montreal, meanwhile, has climbed to fourth in the Eastern Conference and is unbeaten in three games in regulation.

Sergei Samsonov, who reportedly is unhappy with his role, snapped a 19-game goal drought with a pair in Tuesday's 4-3 victory over Boston.

Off the ice, Canadiens manager Bob Gainey is mourning his daughter Laura, who is missing and presumed lost at sea after being swept off a ship into the North Atlantic last Friday.

Montreal has won four of the last five meetings between the teams and sports a 9-4-3 mark at home this season.

Cristobal Huet, who leads the NHL with a .932 save percentage, will start in goal.

The Tampa Bay duo of Marc Denis and Johan Holmqvist entered Wednesday last in the league with a combined .879 save percentage.

Montreal wrapsup a four-game homestand on Saturday against Pittsburgh at 7 p.m. ET.