Habs hope to continue surge against 'Canes
Sunday, 02.12.2012 / 7:24 PM
David Kalan - NHL.com Staff WriterHURRICANES (20-25-11) at CANADIENS (23-24-9)
RDS (HD), FS-CR (HD), TSN-HABS (HD)
Carolina 4-2-4; Montreal 6-3-1.
Montreal has taken both meetings between the 'Canes and Habs this season. In their last game, the Canadiens edged Carolina in a shootout, 4-3, at the RBC Center on Nov. 23, 2011.
With more than 10 points separating Carolina from the eighth spot in the East and only 26 games remaining in the season, the Canes are likely in full spoiler mode at this point in the season, and they will get their chance to throw a wrench into another team's postseason plans when they face Montreal, which has postseason hopes that are still there, but hanging by a thread.
There are many reasons to think Montreal might be taking Carolina lightly Monday night. The obvious one is that with 51 points, the Canes are currently in last place in the East with a conference-worst -30 goal differential and a poor 6-13-8 record away from Raleigh. But there has also been some bad luck in the mix, most notably in the shootout, where Carolina is the only team in the NHL not to have picked up an extra point, losing all four times they've been tied at the end of overtime.
But that said there are reasons to think Carolina has actualyl done a decent job of turning its season around and giving reason for optimism. For one, despite being outscored by such a high margin, the offense hasn't suffered. In fact, the Hurricanes, curiously, have not been shut out since Nov. 18. In addition, despite losing the first two stops of their current three-game road trip in overtime, the Canes have been a surprisingly tough out lately, losing just two of their last 12 games in regulation.
Montreal's postseason hopes aren't dead yet, but the sand is starting to get low in its hour glass. The Habs are currently 11th in the Eastern Conference sitting seven points back of Toronto for the final playoff spot. The Canadiens shrank that margin with a big win Saturday night, as they came to Toronto on the night the Maple Leafs honored longtime captain Mats Sundin and trounced their Original Six rival 5-0.
The win was the fourth in a road for Montreal, which has started to pick up the pace lately in a way that could make Toronto, Ottawa, Washington and Winnipeg sweat. Even more reassuring for the Canadiens is that Carey Price
has been phenomenal over their recent winning streak, surrendering a grand total of four goals over those four games.
After a rough start to the season, Eric Staal
appears to have found his game for Carolina. He has five points in his last five games. ... Max Pacioretty
has been scoring in a big way for Montreal, netting five goals in his last four games.
Both Travis Moen
(upper-body injury) and Yannick Weber
(lower-body injury) are doubtful for Montreal. Carolina does not have any major injuries aside from Joni Pitkanen
(concussion), who has been out since November.
One major reason for Montreal to not take Carolina lightly? The Canadiens haven't been that much better unless a game goes to a shootout. Montreal's 21 regulation or overtime wins are just one more than Carolina's 20.
While the Canadiens still have a ways to go before they can touch the top eight, they are starting to put together what could be an impressive run if they continue their winning ways. On the contrary, however, any loss could be difficult to swallow, and one Monday night against the East cellar dwellars could be a particularly devastating blow.