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Canadiens-Hurricanes Preview

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Canadiens-Hurricanes Preview

GAME: Montreal Canadiens (18-12-6) at Carolina Hurricanes (23-10-4).

TIME: Saturday, 8 p.m. EST.

Although they maintain a comfortable lead in the Southeast Division, the Carolina Hurricanes have struggled defensively during a season high-tying three-game losing streak.

Carolina tries to avoid a fourth straight defeat as it continues a four-game homestand against the Montreal Canadiens.

The Hurricanes have allowed 15 goals during the three-game losing streak after surrending only 12 in their previous five games - all wins.

Starting goaltender Martin Gerber has given up five goals in each of his last two starts while rookie backup Cam Ward was in net for a 4-3 overtime loss Thursday to Atlantic Division-leading Philadelphia.

Matt Cullen scored twice off assists from Ray Whitney in Thursday's loss for the Hurricanes, who have a nine-point lead over Tampa Bay in the Southeast.

Two of Carolina's last three losses have come in overtime, so they at least salvaged two points.

"We're not here to lose in overtime, we're here to win hockey games," Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette said. "They had a little more bite for the puck than we did."

Thursday's defeat could've been more costly for Carolina, but right wing Erik Cole isn't expected to miss any time after he went crashing into the boards late in the third period, opening a cut above his right eye. Cole is tied for fourth on the team with 31 points.

One game after ending a nine-game road winless streak, the Canadiens lost 2-1 Friday at the Florida Panthers.

Niklas Sundstrom scored the lone goal for Montreal, which is 1-7-3 in its last 11 road games after opening the season with six wins in seven contests away from home.

"We battled hard, but on a night like tonight, it wasn't good enough," Sundstrom said

Jose Theodore had another strong game in goal for the Canadiens, stopping 28 shots after he made 41 saves in Wednesday's 4-3 victory at Tampa Bay.

Montreal captain and leading scorer Saku Koivu missed his fifth straight game Friday with a groin injury. He is listed as day-to-day.

STANDINGS: Canadiens - 42 points, 4th place, 15 PB, Northeast Division. Hurricanes - 50 points, 1st place, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Canadiens - Michael Ryder, 16 goals; Koivu and Mike Ribeiro, 19 assists; Koivu, 27 points; Steve Begin, 87 PIM. Hurricanes - Eric Staal, 26 goals, 25 assists and 51 points; Mike Commodore, 76 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Canadiens - Power play: 18.1 percent (41 for 227), 14th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.8 percent (190 for 235), 23rd. Hurricanes - Power play: 18.7 percent (46 for 246), 9th (tied). Penalty killing: 80 percent (168 for 210), 26th.

GOALTENDERS: Canadiens - Theodore (14-8-5, 0 SO, 3.01 GAA); Cristobal Huet (1-2-1, 3.67). Hurricanes - Gerber (17-7-2, 2, 2.79); Ward (6-3-2, 4.01).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Canadiens, 2-0-2.

LAST MEETING: Feb. 28, 2004; Canadiens, 1-0 (OT). At Montreal, Ribeiro scored 3:38 into overtime and Theodore stopped 18 shots for the shutout.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Canadiens - 7-7-4 on the road; Hurricanes - 14-4-1 at home.


Associated Press
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