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Atlanta
Thrashers
34-40-8
Montréal
Canadiens
47-25-10

27 SOG
33 SOG
1st2nd3rdT
ATL
MTL
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Thrashers-Canadiens Preview

Tuesday, 02.26.2008 / 7:30 PM

Associated Press

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Thrashers-Canadiens Preview
Atlanta Thrashers vs. Montréal Canadiens

Although they are in comfortable position in the Eastern Conference standings, the Montreal Canadiens have been suffering through some inconsistent play in goal recently.

Getting rid of Cristobal Huet and handing the starting job over to rookie Carey Price may solve that problem.

Hours after dealing Huet to Washington, the Canadiens look to get back on track Tuesday when they host the struggling Atlanta Thrashers - a team that will also have a new look after trading away star forward Marian Hossa.

Montreal (33-21-9) has dropped consecutive games at home after winning four straight, following a 5-4 loss to Pittsburgh on Thursday with a 3-0 defeat Saturday to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Montreal was 0-for-6 on the power play on Saturday en route to its first shutout loss since Jan. 19, and fourth this season, frustrating coach Guy Carbonneau.

"I could accept losing and goals against when teams are working for them, but when you give them away, it's a different thing," Carbonneau said. "I've never seen a team shut down with no shots during a game, shots happen."

Despite the recent losses, the Canadiens enter the finale of their four-game homestand just three points behind Northeast Division leader Ottawa, and four points back of New Jersey for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. However, they are just 5-6-0 in their last 11 games while allowing 38 goals.

Huet was in goal for six of those games, starting five and going 2-4-0 with a 4.31 goals-against average. The 2007 All-Star was Montreal's No. 1 goalie this season, going 21-12-6 with a 2.55 GAA, but the Canadiens sent him to the Capitals before Tuesday's trade deadline for a 2009 second-round draft pick.

That makes the 20-year-old Price the starter. He has appeared in 26 games this season, going 12-9-3 with a 2.83 GAA and one shutout.

All three games between Montreal and Atlanta (29-30-4) this season have been decided in shootouts. The Thrashers won the first two, but lost 3-2 at home on Jan. 17.

Atlanta is trying to avoid closing out its five-game road trip with a fourth straight loss. Since opening the swing with a 4-3 shootout win over the Devils, the Thrashers have been outscored 12-5 in losing three in a row, including Saturday's 3-1 defeat at Toronto.

The poor play may have prompted Tuesday's trade of Hossa, second on the team with 26 goals and 30 assists, to the Penguins for forwards Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen. Hossa is making $6 million a year in a contract that expires after this season.

Armstrong, 25, has 37 goals and 61 assists in three NHL seasons, including nine goals and 15 assists in 2007-08. The 24-year-old Christensen has nine goals and 11 assists this season.

Hossa's departure adds pressure on Ilya Kovalchuk to produce, but the Thrashers' leading scorer has gone three straight games without a goal. The left wing, who has 40 goals and 29 assists for a team-high 69 points, has just one goal and three assists in his last seven games.

Atlanta is in second-to-last place in the Eastern Conference, seven points behind Philadelphia and Buffalo for the final playoff spot.

"If you can't beat one of the worst teams in the conference, we don't deserve it," center Bobby Holik said. "There's no room for excuses. Those are facts. We all know that we lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight, and what else is there to say? We weren't good enough to win. We weren't good enough in any aspect of the game."

2007-2008 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Feb 26 '08ATL 1 at MTL 5C. Higgins
Jan 17 '08MTL 3 at ATL 2 - SOA. Kostitsyn
Dec 22 '07MTL 2 at ATL 3 - SOM. Hossa
Oct 30 '07ATL 3 at MTL 2 - SOI. Kovalchuk
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%