NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, April 8th (All times eastern)
Montreal Canadiens (39-32-9) at Carolina Hurricanes (34-36-10), 7:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Montreal Canadiens will try to wrap up a playoff spot tonight when they visit the Carolina Hurricanes for a clash at RBC Center.
The Canadiens are currently sixth in the East and can officially punch their ticket to the postseason by gaining a point in tonight's road test. Montreal, which will complete its regular season Saturday against visiting Toronto, is just one point ahead of Philadelphia for the conference's sixth spot.
The Habs are aiming for their third straight playoff appearance.
Montreal had won two straight prior to dropping a shootout decision Tuesday night against the host New York Islanders. Frans Nielsen tied the game late in the third period and Matt Moulson scored the clinching shootout goal to push the Islanders past the Habs 4-3, at Nassau Coliseum.
Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta and Maxim Lapierre scored for the Canadiens. Jaroslav Halak picked up 39 saves in defeat after posting shutouts in his previous two outings.
"It would have been nice to win, but it is what it is right now," said Gionta. "We put ourselves in this situation. We just have to focus on the last two games."
Habs defenseman Jaroslav Spacek missed his third straight game with flu-like symptoms, but could return tonight.
Montreal is 19-16-5 on the road and has lost three of its last four games as the guest.
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, have been eliminated from playoff contention, but that didn't stop them from turning in an offensive showcase Tuesday in Tampa. Eric Staal posted two goals and two assists as Carolina notched a season-best for goals in one game by topping the Lightning, 8-5, at St. Pete Times Forum.
Rod Brind'Amour and Drayson Bowman also picked up a pair of goals apiece while Chad LaRose added a goal and two helpers for the Hurricanes, who snapped a two-game slide.
Cam Ward picked up the win in relief, stopping 24-of-26 shots over 34-plus minutes. Manny Legace started but left due to an undisclosed injury after allowing two goals on 11 shots.
"It was an unusual game. We came out way more sharp and focused than we have been, and put a lot of pucks to the net," said Carolina head coach Paul Maurice of the high-octane affair. "I'm pleased that we were able to execute and when you bring that kind of emotion to a hockey game, good things happen."
Tonight marks the final home game of the season for the 'Canes, who are 20-17-3 as the host this year. Carolina will close its campaign Saturday in Boston.
The Habs won the first two meetings with Carolina this year, but the Hurricanes notched a 2-1 win when the teams met in Montreal on March 31. Carolina has taken five of eight overall in the series, but the Canadiens have won three of their last five in Raleigh.
04/08 10:46:53 ET