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GAME NOTES: Carolina Hurricanes at Montreal Canadiens

by Staff Writer / Carolina Hurricanes
STEPPING UP

By Paul Branecky

Game Notes

Just when it seemed like the injury bug was starting to fly away from the Hurricanes, it bit again Thursday night. Hard.

With Erik Cole and Cory Stillman already not playing against the New York Rangers, Carolina lost Justin Williams and Bret Hedican early in the contest. If you had to pick four players to remove from the lineup, those guys probably wouldn't be very high on the list.

However, there was some good news at Friday morning's practice, which came just hours before the team left for Montreal to take on the Canadiens on Saturday (7 p.m., FSN South, Hurricanes Radio Network) in a game with serious playoff implications for both teams.

Head Coach Peter Laviolette said that Hedican does not have a concussion as was originally reported and is only listed as day-to-day. In addition, Cole skated with the team for the entire practice and is "possible" to play against Montreal.

With Cole's 16 points in 16 career games vs. the Canadiens, that's good news indeed.

Still, with 207 man-games lost to injury this year, the Hurricanes can't help but feel frustrated by the current situation.

"Yeah, that's not good," said Captain Rod Brind'Amour. "We've only had one game all year where we've had our full lineup, and that's tough, but that's the way it goes. You have to be able to respond and everyone has to step up a little more, and that's part of the game."

In fact, the Hurricanes weren't even completely healthy for the entire game Brind'Amour mentioned. When defenseman Frank Kaberle finally returned on February 6th against Montreal after missing 55 games with a shoulder injury, Stillman went down in the second period and hasn't played since.

While you might expect the Hurricanes to be discouraged with their terrible injury luck, defenseman Glen Wesley said that situations like these can actually bring the team together.

"It's a little bit demoralizing, but on the other hand those opportunities are great character builders," he said. "Everybody is going to play a key role, and those are the types of games you like to play in. It gives you confidence to know that if you lose a couple of guys, everybody steps up and plays a little bit harder, a little bit better and a little bit smarter, then next thing you know, you've got a win under your belt."

The Hurricanes will need other players to step up on the penalty kill in particular. They were 0-3 on the man-disadvantage against the Rangers, with New York scoring on each of their power play chances. Williams and Hedican both log significant time on the penalty kill.

However, Wesley said the absence of those two for most of the game wasn't the reason for that night's penalty killing trouble.

"That's an excuse," he said. "We've got lots of different guys that can do different things, and it's opportunities for other guys to step up."

It won't get any easier against the Canadiens, who, thanks in large part to defenseman and team scoring leader Sheldon Souray, have the second-ranked power play in the NHL. Souray has just as many power play goals (14) as NHL overall goal-scoring leader Vincent Lecavalier of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Montreal is currently reeling, however, after going only 2-7-1 in their last 10 games, an NHL-worst record during that span. After being the principal challenger to the Buffalo Sabres in the Eastern Conference standings at the start of the season, Montreal is currently out of a spot in 10th place.

The Canadiens also have their injury problems, as starting goaltender Cristobal Huet will miss the next few weeks with a lower body injury, meaning that backup David Aebischer will get the start tomorrow night. In addition, forward Alexei Kovalev is out with an elbow injury.

The Hurricanes can take some comfort in their recent successes in Montreal, dating back to last year's playoffs and the 2-1 win they picked up just over a week ago.

Not that Brind'Amour is looking forward to the trip.

"I hate going on the road, so it's not really exciting for me," he said with a laugh, before becoming suddenly serious. "But every game is so important now and they're right with us in the exact same spot. Obviously it's a tough building to play in, and we're going to have to be ready."

KEN PRESTON

Carolina Hurricanes at Montreal Canadiens
Saturday, Feb. 17, 7:00 p.m. (ET)
Bell Centre * Montreal, Que.
Hurricanes: 29-24-7 (65 pts.) 3rd Southeast Division
Canadiens:
29-24-6 (64 pts.), 4th Northeast Division

TOMORROW’S GAME
The Carolina Hurricanes travel to Montreal for their final meeting this season against the Canadiens (7 p.m., FSN South, Hurricanes Radio Network). The Hurricanes look to regroup after falling 4-1 at home against the New York Rangers on Thursday, and losing ground in the Southeast Division standings. Carolina (60 games played, 65 points) enters Saturday’s NHL play three points behind Tampa Bay (59, 68 – 7:30 p.m. @ FLA) for second place in the Southeast Division, with Atlanta (60, 69 – 3 p.m. v. OTT) leading the division.

MILESTONE WATCH

  • Right wing Justin Williams played his 400th NHL game, Feb. 15 vs. NY Rangers
  • Captain Rod Brind’Amour is two goals shy of 400 for his NHL career

CURRENT STREAKS

  • Goaltender Cam Ward has started six straight games (2/3-2/15)
  • Right wing Scott Walker has points in three straight games (2/10-2/15: 1g, 2a)

Television: FSN South (Hurricanes LIVE begins at 6:30 p.m.; TWC Raleigh/Durham ch. 50; DirecTV ch. 633; Dish ch. 446)

Radio: Hurricanes Radio Network – WWMY 102.9 FM (Raleigh – flagship), Pirate Radio – WGHB 1250 AM and WDLX 930 AM (Greenville, NC… check listings for games), News Talk Radio WFNC 640 AM (Fayetteville, NC… Saturdays and Sundays)
Internet: www.nhl.com, www.CarolinaHurricanes.com

CAROLINA NOTES

  • The Hurricanes have won each of their last six games at the Bell Centre (3 regular season, 3 postseason) and outscored Montreal 22-9 in that span. The Canadiens last scored a regulation home win against Carolina on Dec. 6, 2003.

  • Left wing Ray Whitney has earned points in 14 of Carolina’s last 17 games, scoring 10 goals and earning 14 assists (24 points) dating back to Jan. 6. Whitney picked up multiple assists in four of those games, earning two helpers on Jan. 6 against the NY Islanders, Jan. 9 at Toronto and Feb. 8 at Boston, and three assists on Jan. 26 against Washington.

  • It is impossible to divide the 82-game NHL schedule into perfect thirds, but when looking at the first 27 games of the season, Carolina went 14-10-3. In the next 28 games (games 28-55), the Hurricanes posted a 12-12-4 record, and the team has started the final third of the season 3-2-0 (27 games; games 56-82).

  • While the Hurricanes have won just four games in their last 12 outings, the team has won three of its last five games and earned points in 11 of its last 17 games, going 8-6-3 since Jan. 6, and earning 19 of a possible 34 points in that span, and climbed to within four points of first place in the Southeast Division.

  • This season, Carolina’s penalty kill has gone 237-for-281 (84.3%) in 56 games with Rod Brind’Amour in the lineup. It went 17-for-27 (63.0%) in the four games Brind’Amour missed in December.

CAROLINA AT HOME: 15-11-4
CAROLINA ON THE ROAD: 14-13-3
CAROLINA ON THE POWER PLAY: 54-of-340 (15.9%)
CAROLINA SHORTHANDED: 255-of-309 (82.5%)

INJURY REPORT

  • Winger Erik Cole, lower body, day-to-day, missed three games
  • Left wing Cory Stillman, knee, injured reserve, missed four games

HURRICANES PRACTICE SCHEDULE

DECEMBER
Practice Type
Time
Location
Sat., Feb. 17
Pregame Skate
11:30 a.m.
Bell Centre, Montreal
Sun., Feb. 18
Off
-
-
Mon., Feb. 19
Team Practice
11:00 a.m.
RBC Center, Raleigh
Tues., Feb. 20
Pregame Skate
10:30 a.m.
RBC Center, Raleigh
Wed., Feb. 21
Team Practice
11:00 a.m.
RBC Center, Raleigh
Thurs., Feb. 22
Pregame Skate
10:30 a.m.
RBC Center, Raleigh
Fri., Feb. 23
Team Practice
11:00 a.m.
RecZone, Raleigh
Sat., Feb. 24
Pregame Skate
11:30 a.m.
Philips Arena, Atlanta
Sun., Feb. 25
Team Practice
12:00 p.m.
RecZone, Raleigh
Mon., Feb. 26
Team Practice
11:00 a.m.
RecZone, Raleigh
Tues., Feb. 27
Pregame Skate
10:30 a.m.
RBC Center, Raleigh
Wed., Feb. 28
Pregame Skate
11:30 a.m.
ScotiaBank Place, Ottawa

*All times are local… Times and locations subject to change

AGAINST THE CANADIENS
Saturday marks the fourth and final regular-season meeting between 2006 Eastern Conference quarterfinals opponents Carolina and Montreal. The teams met at the RBC Center on Nov. 2, a 4-0 Montreal win, but Carolina stuck back on Nov. 30, scoring a 4-2 win in Ralegih. Just 11 days ago, on Feb. 6, the Hurricanes scored a 2-1 win at the Bell Centre behind a 25-save, second-star performance from netminder Cam Ward. In 2005-06, the Hurricanes posted a perfect 4-0-0 record against Montreal and outscored the Canadiens 25-9 in the teams’ four contests. Justin Williams led all scorers with nine points in last year’s four-game set, while Erik Cole led Carolina with five goals despite playing in just three of the four games between the clubs. The Hurricanes franchise posts a 53-86-19-2 all-time record against the Canadiens, including a 32-37-12-1 home mark, and a 21-49-7-1 record in Montreal.

SCORING LEADERS AND GOALTENDERS

CAROLINA HURRICANES
MONTREAL CANADIENS
Skaters
GP
G
A
PTS
Whitney
60
26
42
68
Brind'Amour
56
16
47
63
Williams
60
29
25
54
Staal
60
24
30
54
Skaters
GP
G
A
PTS
Souray
58
19
28
47
Koivu
58
16
29
45
Kovalev
57
13
25
38
Ryder
59
16
20
36
Goaltenders
GP
GAA
W-L
SV %
Ward
47
2.91
24-15-6
.898
Grahame
16
3.10
5-9-1
.891
Goaltenders
GP
GAA
W-L
SV %
Huet
40
2.74
19-15-3
.918
Aebischer
25
2.89
10-9-3
.910
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