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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Wednesday, March 30th (All times eastern)

Montreal Canadiens (41-29-7) at Carolina Hurricanes (36-30-10), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Carolina Hurricanes gave their playoff hopes a big boost with a clutch victory last night. That victory could prove moot if they can't find a way to beat the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday night.

With the teams facing off for the fourth and final time this season, the Hurricanes will try to record their fifth victory in six games -- and first this season versus the Habs -- when they host the Canadiens this evening at the RBC Center.

Carolina came into play last night in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, five points behind Buffalo for the eighth spot. Visiting Southeast Division- leading Washington, the Hurricanes battled back for a 3-2 shootout victory to pull two points closer to the Sabres after they lost to Toronto on Tuesday. Both teams have six games to play and Buffalo hosts the Rangers tonight.

Hurricanes rookie Jeff Skinner tied the game with his 27th goal of the season, then potted a goal in the shootout. Cam Ward, meanwhile, made stops on the Capitals' Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom before Tuomo Ruutu clinched the tiebreaker with a goal.

Ward ended with 38 saves for Carolina, which was coming off a regulation loss to the Lightning on Saturday that ended a three-game winning streak.

"[The Capitals] got two good goals on us but we still had a good feeling going into the third period," said Jokinen. "We need all the points we can get here these last games."

That includes tonight's meeting with the Canadiens, who have outscored the 'Canes, 14-7, in the season series, with half of that damage coming in a 7-2 home win back on Nov. 13 in the first meeting. Montreal has won a pair of one- goal games since and will try for its first ever season-series sweep of Carolina.

Montreal has twice before gone 7-0 with a tie against the Carolina franchise in a single season, doing so in both 1981-82 and '83-84 when the club was beginning its tenure as an NHL franchise in Hartford.

The Habs have won two of their last three at Carolina.

The Canadiens should have some restored confidence tonight after they avoided a fourth straight shutout setback by besting the Thrashers, 3-1, last night. Roman Hamrlik ended his club's 199 minute and one second goal drought by scoring at 12:56 of the first period and Mathieu Darche followed with another goal just 11 seconds later.

Andrei Kostitsyn added an empty-net tally and Carey Price made 27 saves for Montreal, which had been blanked in three straight games for the first time since Oct. 23-29, 1949 and avoided going four consecutive games without a goal for the first time since Feb. 14-26, 1928.

"It was a step in the right direction, but by no means was it a perfect game for us," said Montreal captain Brian Gionta.

That step has Montreal two points up on the Rangers for sixth place in the East, though New York has a game in hand.

The Habs' recent three-game losing streak has nearly eliminated them from the race for first place in the Northeast Division as the idle Bruins are seven points up with six games to play, one more than Montreal.

The Canadiens will play two straight and four of their final five games on the road, where they are 18-18-1 this season.

Price is 4-3-1 with a 2.43 goals-against average in his career versus the Hurricanes, while Ward is 11-6-2 with a 2.74 GAA against the Canadiens.

03/30 10:35:18 ET

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