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
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
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