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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Saturday, February 17th (All times eastern)

Carolina Hurricanes (29-24-7) at Montreal Canadiens (29-24-6), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - Two teams trying desperately to hang on in the Eastern Conference playoff race will face off tonight at the Bell Centre, where the fading Montreal Canadiens host the Carolina Panthers in a key showdown.

Montreal is in the midst of a five-game losing streak, the franchise's longest skid since it also dropped five in a row from March 24-April 1, 2004, and has suffered defeats in seven of the last eight contests. The slide has dropped the Canadiens into a three-way tie with Toronto and the New York Islanders for the final playoff spot in the East, although the Maple Leafs and Isles both have a game in hand.

Carolina stands just one point ahead of the Habs in the conference's No. 7 spot.

Montreal's most recent setback came at the hands of the Atlantic Division- leading New Jersey Devils, who cruised to a 5-2 victory Wednesday at the Meadowlands.

Sheldon Souray and Sergei Samsonov each scored for the Canadiens, who were outshot by a whopping 41-21 margin on the evening. The team has mustered only seven goals over the course of this losing streak.

Making matters worse for Montreal, All-Star goaltender Cristobal Huet had to leave Wednesday's contest after injuring his left hamstring in the second period and will not be available tonight. The Canadiens will also be without veteran forward Alexei Kovalev, who will reportedly be sidelined two-to-three weeks with an elbow problem.

The defending Stanley Cup champion Hurricanes had posted victories in three of their last four outings before suffering a 4-1 home defeat to the New York Rangers on Thursday. Andrew Ladd had the lone tally for Carolina, while Cam Ward surrendered all four New York goals on 27 shots.

The Hurricanes suffered a couple of significant injuries as well on Thursday. Right wing Justin Williams, who leads Carolina with 29 goals, suffered an upper body injury and veteran defenseman Bret Hedican endured a concussion. Both players are doubtful to suit up tonight.

These teams met at the Bell Centre earlier this month, with Carolina coming through with a 2-1 decision on February 6. The victory was the Hurricanes' sixth in their seven most recent regular-season encounters with the Habs. Carolina also downed Montreal in six games in the opening round of last season's Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Hurricanes have also recorded wins in each of their last six visits to Montreal, including three postseason victories a year ago.

02/17 10:38:08 ET

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