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Canadiens go for playoff clincher at Carolina

by Eric Goodman

CANADIENS (39-32-9) AT HURRICANES (34-36-10)

Last 10 -- Montreal 4-3-3; Carolina 5-3-2

Season series -- This is the fourth and final game between the Habs and Canes this season. Both clubs won a game on the road and the third contest was claimed by the Canadiens, 3-2 in the shootout, on Nov. 17 in Montreal. The Hurricanes won the last meeting, 2-1 in Montreal last Wednesday.

Big story -- The Canadiens will make their second attempt to clinch a playoff spot. They blew a late lead on Long Island and lost 4-3 in a shootout. But beating the 'Canes won't be easy - Carolina has been among the NHL's best teams over the past couple of months and is coming off an 8-5 win at Tampa Bay.

Team Scope:

Canadiens -- The Habs had an opportunity to claim a playoff berth on their own on Tuesday but lost to the Islanders in a shootout, leaving them a point shy of locking up their third consecutive postseason berth. Montreal got solid goaltending from Jaroslav Halak, who turned aside 39 Islanders' shots. Also, the Canadiens extended their point streak over the Islanders to 13 games, going 10-0-3 against Isles over that span.

Hurricanes -- Carolina was eliminated from playoff contention last week, but the 'Canes have certainly come a long way from where they were at in the beginning of the season. A franchise-tying 14-game losing streak spanning from mid-October to mid-November meant a tremendous uphill battle for this season, but the Canes showed remarkable resiliency.

Multiple injuries throughout the season, including most notably to captain Eric Staal, right wing Tuomo Ruutu and All-Star goalie Cam Ward, put a damper on the recent campaign but things should definitely be looking up for Carolina as it looks ahead to 2010-11.

Who's hot -- Halak had recorded back-to-back shutouts before the shootout loss on Long Island. He has also won three of his last five starts for the Habs. Staal had two goals and two assists in the win over the Lightning on Tuesday and now has recorded points in four of his last five games for Carolina.

Injury report -- Canadiens' forward Glen Metropolit (shoulder) is out for the regular season. For Carolina, Ruutu (right shoulder surgery) and defenseman Tim Gleason (broken right foot) are expected to miss the rest of the season, while defenseman Alexandre Picard (upper-body injury) should also be out of the lineup for the Hurricanes.

Stat pack -- The Hurricanes are 32-24-6 since tying the Hartford Whalers for the longest losing streak in franchise history at 14 back on Nov. 13.

Puck drop -- The Hurricanes have absolutely nothing to lose. Look for the Carolina youngsters to continue showcasing their talents in hopes of making next season's roster. A combo of rookies and veterans can prove to be a dangerous combination -- like 21-year-old left wing Drayson Bowman, who tallied his first two NHL goals Tuesday against TampaBay. He played on a line centered by 39-year-old Rod Brind'Amour -- who also scored twice.

"It was obviously a dream to score the first one," Bowman said after Tuesday's game. "You don't know quite when or how it's going to come, but it really feels good."

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