CANADIENS (23-14-3) at HURRICANES (14-16-9)
TV: RDS, FS-CR
Last 10: Montreal 5-5-0; Carolina 2-4-4
Season series: This is the first of three games this season between the Montreal Canadiens and Carolina Hurricanes.
Big story: After an impressive stretch in late November pulled Montreal into the race for the Atlantic Division crown, the Canadiens have struggled with just one regulation win in their past nine games. They play the fifth of a six-game trip against the Hurricanes, who are looking to snap a five-game losing streak.
Canadiens: Montreal's annual post-Christmas swing through the state of Florida yielded mixed results. The Canadiens beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 in a shootout on Saturday, but didn't have a lot of zip in a 4-1 loss to the Florida Panthers on Sunday that dropped them to third place in the Atlantic Division.
Rather than work his players hard at practice Monday, coach Michel Therrien lightened the mood with a game of "baseball." Four teams with five players each went head-to-head in a competition Therrien has been utilizing for years.
“I played the game in Granby and Laval, too. It’s a game that we use to relax things. I believe strongly in having good atmosphere and good team spirit,” Therrien told the Canadiens' website. “Those things need to be maintained, too. We got together as a coaching staff this morning, and thought this would be an ideal time to do it.”
Hurricanes: Carolina's slide has dropped the team to seventh place in the Metropolitan Division, though the Hurricanes are just three points out of a playoff spot.
They're coming home to face the Canadiens after a 5-2 road loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs Sunday night in which they outshot the home team 43-27.
"We had enough chances to win a hockey game," coach Kirk Muller said. "The chances were there. They scored and we didn't."
After facing Montreal on Tuesday, the Hurricanes will open 2014 with a brief two-game road trip to face division rivals the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders.
Who's hot: Montreal center Tomas Plekanec scored Saturday night in Tampa Bay; he has 32 points in 30 career games against Carolina. … Hurricanes forward Nathan Gerbe has two goals and two assists in his past three games.
Injury report: Montreal forward George Parros (concussion) remains out although he has begun skating again, while defenseman Davis Drewiske (shoulder surgery) remains out until at least February. .. Carolina forward Jiri Tlusty (appendix injury) is on injured reserve, as is defenseman Jay Harrison (concussion).