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Canadiens-Penguins Preview @NHLdotcom

GAME: Montreal Canadiens (34-27-9) at Pittsburgh Penguins (18-40-12).

TIME: Sunday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

The Montreal Canadiens may be in good position to make the playoffs, but for some reason they can't seem to beat the team with the league's worst record.

Montreal tries to avoid being swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first time in franchise history when the teams meet at Mellon Arena.

The Canadiens have lost all three games against the Penguins this season. Those contests comprise one-sixth of Pittsburgh's total victories.

As they seek their first back-to-back playoff appearances since 1997-98, the Canadiens hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Montreal trails seventh-seeded New Jersey by just two points with 12 games remaining.

Radek Bonk and Michael Ryder each scored twice on Saturday, as Montreal beat Toronto 6-2 to sweep consecutive home games against the Maple Leafs. The Canadiens also defeated the Leafs 5-1 on Thursday.

More importantly, the victory moved Montreal past Atlanta and into eighth place in the conference.

"Before these two games, we had trouble scoring and we knew what these two games meant in the standings," said Ryder, who now has 27 goals this season, two more than he scored as a rookie in 2003-04.

Following the game in Pittsburgh, eight of the Canadiens' remaining 11 games are at home, where they are 19-10-4.

The Penguins have won four of their last seven games and seek consecutive wins for only the fifth time in 2005-06. Pittsburgh, though, has just 18 victories - its fewest since recording 16 wins and a franchise-worst 38 points in 1983-84.

Sidney Crosby scored at 3:28 of overtime and added an assist in the Pittsburgh's 4-3 win over the New York Islanders on Friday.

"I just tried to throw it at the net," said Crosby, who beat Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro with a wrist shot to the short side. "He's an aggressive goalie and I think he fell after he tried to get it."

Crosby's 32 goals tie him with injured Colorado rookie Marek Svatos for the second-most among first-year players, trailing only Washington's Alexander Ovechkin, who has 47.

Svatos is out for the season after suffering a shoulder injury earlier this month.

The 18-year-old Crosby's 46 assists are tops among rookies, while his 78 points trail only Ovechkin's 91.

Crosby has three goals and an assist in three games against the Canadiens this season.

STANDINGS: Canadiens - 77 points, 3rd place, 25 PB, Northeast Division. Penguins - 48 points, 5th place, 42 PB, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Canadiens - Ryder, 27 goals; Alexei Kovalev, 36 assists and 54 points; Todd Simpson, 125 PIM. Penguins - Crosby, 32 goals, 46 assists and 78 points; Brooks Orpik, 114 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Canadiens - Power play: 19.6 percent (77 for 393), 5th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.0 percent (349 for 431), 23rd. Penguins - Power play: 17.9 percent (77 for 430), 14th. Penalty killing: 78.3 percent (365 for 466), 29th.

GOALTENDERS: Canadiens - Cristobal Huet (14-8-4, 5 SO, 2.21 GAA); David Aebischer (25-16-2, 3, 3.07). Penguins - Marc-Andre Fleury (11-23-5, 1, 3.21); Sebastien Caron (6-7-4, 4.33).

SEASON SERIES: Penguins, 3-0.

LAST MEETING: March 18; Penguins, 5-4. At Montreal, John LeClair and Ryan Malone each had a goal and two assists to back Fleury, who made 42 saves for Pittsburgh.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Canadiens - 15-17-5 on the road; Penguins - 10-19-7 at home.

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