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Canadiens fail to use home advantage in playoffs @NHL

MONTREAL (AP) -Since leaving the old Forum behind in 1996, the Montreal Canadiens have yet to take advantage of home ice at Bell Centre in the playoffs.

And with the Pittsburgh Penguins possibly on the verge of getting Jordan Staal back in their lineup, that goal could very well remain beyond the Canadiens' grasp in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal Thursday night.

After wresting home-ice from the defending Stanley Cup champions with a split of the first two games in Pittsburgh, Montreal squandered its edge with yet another home loss Tuesday night.

The Canadiens have lost seven of eight home playoff games, including three of four this spring. Overall, Montreal has won only 13 of 37 postseason games since moving into its new downtown arena 14 years ago.

"We like playing at home better but weird things happen in the playoffs," Canadiens center Scott Gomez said Wednesday. "We've definitely got to fix that for (Thursday). We want to play well for our fans. We want to play well at home."

Marc-Andre Fleury became the first goalie to shut out the Canadiens on home ice in the playoffs in 27 years. The Penguins goalie made 18 saves in Pittsburgh's 2-0 win, ending Montreal's streak of 118 consecutive playoff games. The last time it happened, Buffalo's Bob Sauve blanked the Canadiens in straight games at the Forum in April 1983.

The Canadiens had virtually identical records wherever they played during the regular season, going 20-16-5 at home and 19-17-5 on the road.

So far, the playoffs have been a different story. Montreal has won four of six road games in Washington and Pittsburgh, including three of four during its first-round upset series win over the President's Trophy-winning Capitals.

"With the crowd we have behind us we should definitely make it our advantage," center Tomas Plekanec said. "I remember from previous years we didn't take that on our side. We should have used that crowd for us but it seems like on the road we're defending the lead and playing strong defensively and we're able to score on the rush or the power play. Maybe we play a different kind of game at home, not that we want to."

Staal was on the ice with his Pittsburgh teammates only five days after undergoing surgery to repair a severed tendon in his right foot.

The Penguins' 21-year-old center skated for about an hour on Wednesday after cutting his foot on the skate of Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban during Pittsburgh's 6-3 win Friday.

"Obviously their team is going to be much stronger with him in the lineup, there's no question," Plekanec said. "But we played that first game and we showed ourselves that we can compete with them, with any lineup they have, and that's not going to change anything for us. We want to still play the same game as we played and just create more offensively."

Prior to being sidelined for Games 2 and 3, Staal had never missed a game because of injury during his four-year career.

"I obviously haven't had that feeling in a long time where you're not playing, and it's not a fun feeling," Staal said. "You want to get back as soon as you can no matter what, whether there is pain involved or not. It's always a good feeling to get back with the guys and back skating."

It was the second straight day Staal put on his skates. He skated for about 5 minutes in a track suit on Tuesday.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma would not reveal any timetable for Staal's return to the lineup.

"Judging by the end of his practice I was a lot more comfortable with how he was skating than when he first got out there," Bylsma said. "If he can skate like that, depending how he feels (Thursday) morning, there's a possibility that he'll still be day to day."

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