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Gameday: Hurricanes at Canadiens

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes / CarolinaHurricanes.com

MONTREAL - What happened to the sunshine and warm temperatures?

This is the gameday hub, where you can find all the latest news and information related to tonight's tilt featuring the Carolina Hurricanes and Montreal Canadiens in one handy location. Make this a regular stop throughout the day, as we update it with notes, photos and more as puck drop draws near.

We'll be rinkside at Centre Bell to bring you the latest from the Hurricanes morning skate, beginning at 11:30 a.m.

Last updated: 7:05 p.m.


BLUE CROSS AND BLUE SHIELD OF NORTH CAROLINA TOOLS TO VICTORY
7:05 p.m.

Mike Maniscalco details tonight's Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina three Tools to Victory.

1. Blue Line Points

The Canes' back six has become a huge plus in the offensive zone. Continuing to get shots through and jump in the play against the Montreal forwards should lead to grade-A chances.

2. Mark Shea Weber

If the Canes have to kill off a penalty tonight, make sure to have Weber covered. He's still a huge threat from the blue line.

3. Spend Time in the Habs' End

Head coach Bill Peters noted after the morning skate that his team needs to grind on the puck more. Force the opposition to play defense for a while and wear them down. Starting that early should pay off in the third.


PREGAME: PETERS
1:10 p.m.

The Hurricanes may roll out the forward lines seen below, or they might not. Head coach Bill Peters didn't commit one way or the other, but noted that the team has juggled their lines in the last two games, so he wanted to get a look at new groupings during the morning skate.

"We've been a little sluggish the last couple of games. We haven't skated as well as we did earlier," he said. "We want to make sure we get the pace of our game back to where it needs to be."

The coach does plan to balance out his defensive pairs as seen below in order to ramp up the pace of the team in transition.

"Our D are a little bit tired because we're spending too much time in our D-zone, and we're not able to transition as quickly as we'd like," he said. "We think if we balance out three pairs we might have a quicker team."

Here's more from the Canes' bench boss.

On the eight-game point streak: "We're playing the right way against good teams and doing it right. We're finding out about guys. ... We're finding out positive things, and that's what's encouraging."

On perhaps being back in the playoff mix: "It got a little dicey there for a while. We just like the way we're playing. We go about it in a five-game segment. ... We're doing some good things and just focusing on the short-term."

On Jeff Skinner's recent offensive surge: "It's just going in. Nothing really different. He's been dangerous generating offense."

On tonight's opponent: "Tonight we're playing a real good team that doesn't give up much. I think they've given up 19 (goals) in their last 10 (games), so if you think you're going to get to four, you're probably not realistic. We've got to be tight and manage the puck properly."


CANES LINES: MORNING SKATE
11:35 a.m.

The Hurricanes have shuffled the deck with their forward lines and defensive pairs. Elias Lindholm has moved into the middle, while the fourth line has a bit of a new look to it. Additionally, it looks like Justin Faulk and Noah Hanifin will skate as a pair on defense.

McGinn-Staal-Teravainen
Aho-Lindholm-Di Giuseppe
Skinner-Ryan-Stempniak
Nordstrom-Rask-Brown

Hanifin-Faulk
Slavin-Murphy
Dahlbeck-Pesce

Eddie Lack was the first goaltender off the ice for the Hurricanes this morning.

Tweet from @MSmithCanes: #Canes morning skate is a go. #CARvsMTL pic.twitter.com/MVUmwEs7ah


CANES GO FOR POINTS IN NINE STRAIGHT
6:00 a.m.

The Carolina Hurricanes are riding an eight-game point streak and will look to extend that to nine games when they make their second and final visit of the season to Centre Bell in Montreal tonight.

The Hurricanes embarked on a four-game road trip on Sunday, beginning in Philadelphia, where the team earned a point in 4-3 overtime loss, and continuing to Florida, where the Hurricanes scored a goal late in regulation to win 4-3.

Jeff Skinner tallied twice in Florida on Tuesday night, one of which was the game-winning goal, a bang-bang finish in the slot off a centering feed from Derek Ryan. It was Skinner's third multi-goal performance in his last six games, a stretch in which he's totaled seven goals, and he's closing in on the 30-goal mark for the third time in his career.

"He's at the net. He's doing things right," head coach Bill Peters said. "He went to the net hard on the game-winner and got rewarded for it. You do good things on a consistent basis, and typically you will get rewarded in this league."

Another offensive constant in the Hurricanes' current streak is the play of Elias Lindholm, who has recorded points in a career long eight straight games - just like the team. Lindholm has tallied three goals and six assists in his last eight games and has reached the 40-point mark (9g, 31a) for the first time in his career. On Tuesday in Florida, Lindholm notched his 27th primary assist of the season, beautifully dishing the puck to Sebastian Aho for a shorthanded tally.

6-1-3 in their last 10 games and 5-0-3 in their last eight, the Hurricanes have worked themselves back into the playoff conversation in the Eastern Conference, though plenty of work remains. The Canes sit seven points back of the second wild card spot with 11 games left to play - and that includes a game or two in hand on the teams in front of them - and likely another 18 points or so to gain in the standings.

It may not be all too likely, but it's possible, especially given the pace at which the team has been playing as of late.

"We're getting contributions from everyone," Skinner said. "When you go on a run, you're going to have to win different ways and have to have guys step up on different nights and get key plays at key times in games."

The Canadiens are in the midst of a six-game homestand that takes them to the end of March. The Habs bested the Senators 4-1 on Sunday before being edged by the Red Wings in overtime, 2-1, on Tuesday. The Hurricanes and Canadiens split the first two meetings of this three-game season series, which were played in the span of seven days; Carolina claimed victory at home, 3-2, before Montreal returned the favor in their building, 2-1, on Thanksgiving.

CANESPR NOTES: The Canes' last win in Montreal came on Feb. 13, 2012. The team is 0-6-1 since then. … Sebastian Aho has assists in a career long four straight games. He also claimed sole possession of second place for most goals scored by a Carolina rookie with his shorthanded tally in Florida, his 21st goal of the season.


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