MONTREAL -- With just 14 days left on the NHL’s regular season schedule, it’s time to separate the men from the boys. The standings change by the day as some teams rise to the occasion and other crumble under the playoff race pressure. To seal their fate, the Habs will be busy this week with a trio of huge four-point match-ups against their eastern conference rivals.
Canadiens vs. Hurricanes – Wednesday, March 31 @ 7:00 p.m.
The Canadiens will be looking to whip out their brooms to complete the season sweep of the Hurricanes on Wednesday night. The Habs lead the two game series so far with a 3-2 SO win followed by a convincing 5-1 drubbing of the ‘Canes in December. No doubt Jacques Martin’s crew will be checking out game footage from their outing in Carolina, hoping to get off to the same quick start this time around that saw the Kostitsyns, Andrei Markov
and Glen Metropolit drive the nail in the Hurricanes’ coffin with four first period markers. Brian Gionta
will make his Habs debut against Carolina, having missed the first two games on November 14 and December 28 with a broken foot. So far, the shifty sniper has piled up 19 points in 21 career games against the ‘Canes. Canadiens @ Flyers – Friday, April 2 @ 7:00 p.m.
Every game left on the schedule for the Canadiens is a big one, but the game against the Flyers this Friday might just be the biggest of them all. For one night, Philadelphia is sure to become the City of Brotherly Loathe as Habs go head-to-head with one of their closest competitors in the race for a final berth in the postseason.
The Canadiens will be looking for payback when they take on the Flyers following losses on back-to-back nights to Philly just prior to the Olympic break. The Flyers could be ripe for the picking given their ongoing goaltending issues which has their No. 1 and No. 2 both on the shelf with injuries. Philadephia has only mustered a scant three wins over their last 10 games. Canadiens vs Sabres – Saturday, April 3 @ 7:00 p.m.
A possible first-round preview awaits the Canadiens as they will host the division-leading Sabres. Fresh-off a tough 3-2 shootout loss to the Sabres that saw the Habs give up a 2-0 lead late in the third period, Jacques Martin’s charges will again be looking to solve Vezina Trophy hopeful Ryan Miller. In what could prove to be the final home game of 2009-10 for the Canadiens, Buffalo will have to on their game if they hope to slow the Habs postseason push in the tight Eastern Conference playoff picture. Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com See also:Vote for the play of the weekThe playoff raceThe power within