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B.C. Lions quarterback Dave Dickenson makes his return to the lineup when they visit the Alouettes...

B.C. Lions quarterback Dave Dickenson makes his return to the lineup when they visit the Alouettes in Montreal tonight. (Edmonton Sun File/David Bloom)

BOB MACKIN -- 24 Hours Vancouver

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

The Canadian Football League's division leaders begin a two-game, home-and-home series over three weeks this afternoon in Montreal.

Just as B.C. Lions and Montreal Alouettes are from opposite ends of the country, so too have they charted divergent paths of fortune.

The 7-3 Leos are coming off their first bye after 10 straight game weeks. They've won five straight - including three on the road. Can they make it six in a row and stay ahead of the surging Calgary Stampeders, who are just two points behind in the West?

Als have the same record. The 2005 Grey Cup losers started 7-0 under head coach Don Matthews but have lost three straight. They need a win to start September after suffering a humiliating 41-23 loss at home eight days ago to Calgary. Als are looking over their shoulders at the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who are just four points behind in the East. Can they break the slump?

"The scheme is fine, the coaching is fine, the players are fine, we just have to bring it all together," said Montreal centre Bryan Chiu. "It just seems like offensively whenever we are in a good situation we have one mistake."

Dave Dickenson returns as Lions' starting quarterback after a sprained ankle suffered almost a month ago.

"Obviously not playing the last 10 quarters is going to have a little effect on [Dickenson]," said B.C. head coach Wally Buono. "We're hoping he can shake that off fairly quickly."

Dickenson will have to evade Timothy Strickland, the Montreal linebacker who leads his team with five sacks. Offensive lineman Bobby Singh's shoulder muscle tear will keep him out at least until Montreal visits Vancouver on Sept. 16, so ex-Alouette Sherko Haji- Rasouli starts. Like 2005, however, Leos' offensive line is under criticism because it leads the league with 33 sacks allowed.

Defensively, B.C. couldn't be stronger with safety Barron Miles motivated to have a big performance against his former team. He leads the league with eight interceptions. Brent Johnson, August's runner-up for top defensive lineman and defensive player, wants to increase his league-leading 11 sacks by getting his hands on Als' quarterback Anthony Calvillo.


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