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Caps need to beat Canadiens to stay 8th in East

by Tal Pinchevsky

CANADIENS (29-35-14) at CAPITALS (39-31-8)


Last 10: Montreal 3-3-4; Washington 5-3-2

Season Series: This is the fourth and final matchup this season between the teams. Washington is poised to sweep the season series after taking the previous three meetings by a combined score of 10-1. In their last matchup on Feb. 24, Jason Chimera collected a goal and an assist in a 4-1 Capitals' win.

Big Story: While the Canadiens are officially eliminated from playoff contention, Washington is fighting for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East -- a position they were able to regain Friday night thanks to Buffalo's 5-3 loss to Pittsburgh.

Team Scope:

Canadiens: The biggest news in the Canadiens' camp this week came off the ice when team owner and chairman Geoff Molson announced the firing of GM Pierre Gauthier on Thursday. Stuck in a season that has the Canadiens occupying the Eastern Conference basement, the team effectively started their off-season two weeks early by launching the search for their new general manager.

Just 24 hours after Gauthier's firing, the Canadiens were in New York to finish out their season series against the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers. Visiting a team they had previously beaten twice at home this season, Montreal got off to a tough start when Marian Gaborik opened the scoring in the first period with a snapshot that eluded Canadiens' goaltender Carey Price. Over the course of the game, the Rangers would only pad their lead thanks in large part to two goals from Michael Del Zotto and three points from Brad Richards. Rene Bourque would provide Montreal's lone goal late in the third, but with only 20 shots for the game, the Habs barely tested Rangers' goaltender Henrik Lundqvist in a 4-1 loss.

Capitals: Following a streak in which they won three of four games, Washington lost its tenuous hold on the eighth and final playoff spot in the East when it was trounced 5-1 by the Sabres on Tuesday. The Caps needed a win in Boston on Thursday in the worst way -- and despite blowing a 2-0 lead in the final minutes of regulation, they got it when Brooks Laich scored in the fourth round of the shootout for a 3-2 victory.

"We are back on track," captain Alex Ovechkin said. "We are happy to take two points and take a big step."

Who's Hot: David Desharnais has three assists in his last four games while Tomas Plekanec has three points in the same span. … Ovechkin has led the Washington charge with 12 points in his last nine games while Johansson has three points in his last three games.

Injury Report: Travis Moen (upper body), Brian Gionta (bicep surgery), Raphael Diaz (lower body), Yannick Weber (lower body), Scott Gomez (concussion), and Mathieu Darche (upper body) are all on Montreal's IR while Tomas Kaberle is out with an upper-body injury. … Tomas Vokoun (lower body) and John Erskine (lower body) are questionable for Washington while Tom Poti (groin) and Nicklas Backstrom (concussion) are on IR. Backstrom has been skating and is almost ready to return; he's been sidelined since Jan. 3.

Stat Pack: While Alexander Semin is an unrestricted free agent after this season, he has an opportunity to etch his name into the Caps' record book before the end of the 2011-12 campaign. With one more goal, he will have 196 with Washington, tying him with Bengt Gustafsson for fifth all-time in franchise history.

Puck Drop: While the Canadiens' season has been a disappointment, the emergence of their top line featuring Max Pacioretty, Desharnais, and Erik Cole has been a positive. The three forwards are one, two, and four points away respectively from the 60-point mark. If they all reach 60 points in the last four games of the season, it will be the first time Montreal has boasted three 60-point scorers since Alex Kovalev, Tomas Plekanec, and Mark Streit all reached the mark in 2007-08.

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