Hurricanes-Canadiens Preview

The Montreal Canadiens are back in control of the Northeast
Division, while the Carolina Hurricanes are right back in the race
for the Southeast title.

Montreal goes for a third straight win and first season sweep of
the Carolina franchise Monday night.

After grabbing the division lead from Boston – and avoiding a
third consecutive loss – with a 6-5 shootout victory over the
Bruins on Wednesday, the Canadiens (22-7-5) defeated the New York
Rangers 3-0 on Saturday.

Carey Price stopped 34 shots while defenseman P.K. Subban set up
goals by Michael Ryder, Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher.

“We all want the same thing – the two points,” Subban, who has
21 points in his last 18 games, told the Canadiens’ official
website. “We have 14 games left and we just want to focus on
finishing strong and getting ready for the postseason.”

That’s also the case for the Hurricanes (16-15-2), but unlike
Montreal, they’re in chase mode. Carolina, though, is only four
points behind division-leading Winnipeg – with three games in hand
– and is also in a tight battle for one of the final playoff spots
in the Eastern Conference.

The Hurricanes ended a season-worst seven-game skid in timely
fashion Saturday, beating the Jets 3-1.

“We needed to catch this team and win this game,” said captain
Eric Staal, who had a goal and set up another.

Coach Kirk Muller, though, prefers to keep the pressure off his
club at this point.

“For us it was more, if we can be a good hockey team for 16
games that’s what we’re after,” he said.

The Hurricanes need more solid efforts in net from Justin Peters
with Dan Ellis and Cam Ward nursing injuries. Peters turned aside
34 shots Saturday after getting beat four times in each of his
previous three starts.

“I try to take the same approach every game and give my best
effort every night,” he said.

Peters wasn’t at his best March 7 in a 4-2 home loss to
Montreal. Carolina had won a season-best four in a row, but Price
made 41 saves.

Price didn’t play in a 3-0 home win over Carolina on Feb. 18 due
to the flu, but he should be in net for a second consecutive game
Monday.

“To be honest, I thought (Saturday) was a pretty routine game
for him,” Subban said of Price, third in the NHL with 17 wins.

Alexander Semin and Staal could make this contest a little more
challenging for Price. Semin has recorded a goal and an assist in
each of the first two games of Carolina’s three-game trip, while
Staal has also scored in each contest and has 19 points in his past
15 contests.

Both players, though, are scoreless against Montreal this
season.

Gallagher, second among NHL rookies with 11 goals and the team
leader with six at home, has scored in two straight contests. He
did not play the last time the Hurricanes were in town due to a
concussion.

Montreal’s best record in this season series was 7-0-0 with one
tie in 1981-82 and 1983-84, when the Hurricanes were the Hartford
Whalers and the teams played in the Adams Division.