HURRICANES (32-35-9) at CANADIENS (37-31-8)
Last 10 -- Hurricanes 5-4-1; Canadiens 6-2-2
Season series -- This is the third of four meetings between the teams this season, with the Canadiens winning the first two. On Nov. 17, Maxim Lapierre scored the lone goal in a six-round shootout and Carey Price stopped 30 shots in a 3-2 Montreal win at the Bell Centre. On Dec. 23, Glen Metropolit scored a pair of power-play goals and Jaroslav Halak stopped 46 of 47 shots in a 5-1 win at the RBC Center.
Big story -- Can the Hurricanes make a big move? As the teams above them falter and are unable to pull away in the standings, Carolina has crawled within seven points of a playoff spot with six games to go.
Can the Canadiens keep their strong play going? They've won four of their last six at home and can vault past the Flyers and into sixth place in the Eastern Conference with a win.
Hurricanes -- Carolina long ago turned over its season to a youth movement, but those young players have provided a breath of winning. Leading the way is center Brandon Sutter, who has 19 goals and 37 points in 66 games. It's a big growth from the 6 points he had in 50 games last season.
"It's not just a good player and then in four or five years when he develops he's going to be an impact player for the Hurricanes," coach Paul Maurice told the team's Web site. "He is now, and there's nothing to his game to suggest that he's been lucky in doing it."
Defenseman Jamie McBain also has been outstanding, with 2 goals and 6 points in eight games. Goalie Justin Peters, prior to being returned to the AHL with Cam Ward's return to health, was 8-6-3 with a 2.83 goals-against average and .905 save percentage.
Canadiens -- One of the biggest reasons Montreal has a playoff spot is their second-ranked power play, and the biggest component of that power-play success is Glen Metropolit, who has a team-best 10 man-advantage goals.
They'll have to find a new engine, however, as Metropolit could miss the next 6-8 weeks with a shoulder injury.
"Give Glen Metropolit credit -- he's a smart player inside the offensive blue line," Canadiens assistant coach Perry Pearn told NHL.com. "He knows where to go and he's been good at finishing this year."
As one of the Habs' few right-handed shots, he's been used on the back side for rebounds.
"We overload one side and use a rotation," said Pearn. "It's dictated a little by the personnel because we don't have a lot of right-handed shots. Glen is one so we modified the power play a bit because of that. Andrei Markov is a really good power-play quarterback, excellent at sliding in and out. We use him (Metropolit) on the back side. That threat opens space for forwards on the overload side."
Who's hot -- Hurricanes forward Jussi Jokinen has 4 points in his last three games and is one goal shy of his first career 30-goal season. … Canadiens forward Tomas Plekanec has points in three straight games, and in two games against Carolina this season, he has 5 assists.
Injury report -- Carolina defensemen Tim Gleason (foot) and Alexandre Picard (upper body) remain out, and forward Tuomo Ruutu will not play again this season following shoulder surgery. … Metropolit joins defenseman Paul Mara as victims of shoulder injuries. Mara is not expected to play again this season.
Stat pack -- If Brandon Sutter can stay as disciplined as he's been all season while scoring one more goal, he'll become the first player in 10 years to reach 20 goals while accumulating just two penalty minutes. According to the Hurricanes' Web site, the last player to accomplish the feat was Toronto's Sergei Berezin in the 1999-2000 season.
Puck drop -- It seems the decision over who the No. 1 goalie in Montreal has been answered without anyone saying a word. Jaroslav Halak has started 10 of 13 games since the Olympic break, going 7-2-1 with a 2.04 GAA and .927 save percentage.