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NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Wednesday, April 9th (All times Eastern)
Montreal Canadiens (45-27-7) at Chicago Blackhawks (45-19-15), 7:30 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Chicago Blackhawks will try to extend their longest winning streak in four months on Wednesday evening as they play host to the red-hot Montreal Canadiens.
The Blackhawks have opened up April with three straight victories, their longest string of consecutive wins since a three-game span from Dec. 8-11. A win tonight would give Chicago its longest winning streak since a six-game run from Nov. 21-30.
Despite the recent success, Chicago if four points behind the Colorado Avalanche for second place in the Central Division. The holder of that spot would earn home-ice advantage over the third-place club in the opening round of the playoffs.
Both the Blackhawks and Avs have three games remaining, with Colorado idle tonight.
Chicago is coming off a 4-2 victory over the Central-leading St. Louis Blues, with Patrick Sharp scoring the go-ahead goal late in the second period and Marcus Kruger following with a goal in the opening minute of the third frame.
Jeremy Morin also scored and added an assist for the Blackhawks, while Ben Smith put the puck into the open net and Corey Crawford came up with 21 saves.
"Very workman-like three games in a row and we got rewarded each night," said Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville. "It was a good week for us and I liked our response to a real tough week prior."
The Blackhawks have won three straight and six of their last seven at home going into tonight's regular-season finale at the United Center. Chicago's final two games are on the road in Washington and Nashville.
The Canadiens, meanwhile, are looking to hold off the Tampa Bay Lightning for second place in the Atlantic Division. Montreal is two points ahead of the idle Bolts with three games to go for both clubs.
The Habs may be hitting their stride at the right time, having won seven of eight and 10 of their previous 12 games. That includes Saturday's 5-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings that saw Montreal rally from blowing a three-goal lead.
Captain Brian Gionta, in his 300th career game with the Canadiens, scored his second goal of the game with 6:47 remaining to put his club back in front after it failed to hold a 3-0 edge. Alex Galchenyuk was credited with an insurance tally with 4:20 to play after Tomas Plekanec's shot deflected off him and in.
Despite squandering the sizeable lead, Gionta liked how his team reacted.
"We let them get back in the game, but we showed a lot of poise sticking with it and not being rattled by their three goals," he said.
Max Pacioretty scored his 39th goal of the season and Carey Price posted 34 saves.
Montreal will play its final road game of the regular season tonight ahead of home meetings with the New York Islanders and New York Rangers. The club also is slated to have defenseman Josh Gorges back in the lineup for the first time since March 5 as he was sidelined with a hand injury.
The Canadiens have won seven of their previous 10 meetings with the Blackhawks, including a 2-1 overtime victory in Montreal on Jan. 11.
Chicago has still managed to win three straight and five of the last seven encounters at home.
04/09 10:58:57 ET