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Preview: Hurricanes at Canadiens

Montreal holds three-point lead for first in Atlantic Division; Carolina won't give up on playoff hopes

by Sean Farrell / Correspondent

HURRICANES (31-27-13) at CANADIENS (41-23-9)

7:30 p.m. ET; SNE, RDS, FS-CR, NHL.TV


Hurricanes team scope

The Carolina Hurricanes are seven points behind the Boston Bruins for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference after going 5-0-3 in their past eight games. "You never say never, and we've played some good hockey and strung some wins together," center Jordan Staal said after the morning skate at Bell Centre on Thursday. "And I think from our goaltenders out, everyone's been kind of stepping up their game throughout the lineup and it's kind of pushed us over the edge to get us a little run here." Carolina, which has 75 points, has 11 games remaining and two games in hand on Boston. The Hurricanes have one game in hand on the New York Islanders, who they trail by five points, and the Tampa Bay Lightning, who they trail by two. "We've got a good challenge ahead of us tonight," forward Jeff Skinner said. "We can't focus on anything else other than that, so it's a good opportunity for us, a good test. It's going to be a good team and we want to try to get off to a good start, especially on the road, and then worry about the next game after that."


Canadiens team scope

The Montreal Canadiens lead the Ottawa Senators by three points for first place in the Atlantic Division; the Senators host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday. Goaltender Carey Price will start, and coach Claude Julien has moved Phillip Danault to center on the top line with left wing Max Pacioretty and right wing Alexander Radulov. Julien moved Alex Galchenyuk to left wing, Andrew Shaw to center, and Artturi Lehkonen to right wing on a new line. Montreal plays eight of its final nine games against teams not holding a playoff spot, including Carolina, but Julien cautioned that the Hurricanes present a big challenge. "I see youth, I see speed, I see a team that really plays in-your-face kind of hockey," Julien said. "They're very aggressive, they're also a team that their [defensemen] are very active. I'd say 80 percent of the time, it's a four-man rush. Their defensemen always support the team, so it's a team that in my estimation is going in the right direction."


Hurricanes projected lineup

Sebastian Aho -- Jordan Staal -- Teuvo Teravainen

Brock McGinn -- Victor Rask -- Elias Lindholm

Jeff Skinner -- Derek Ryan -- Lee Stempniak

Joakim Nordstrom -- Patrick Brown -- Phillip Di Giuseppe

Jaccob Slavin -- Justin Faulk

Noah Hanifin -- Brett Pesce

Klas Dahlbeck -- Ryan Murphy

Cam Ward

Eddie Lack

Scratched: Matt Tennyson

Injured: Valentin Zykov (upper body), Jay McClement (lower body)  

Canadiens projected lineup

Max Pacioretty -- Phillip Danault -- Alexander Radulov

Paul Byron -- Tomas Plekanec -- Brendan Gallagher

Alex Galchenyuk -- Andrew Shaw -- Artturi Lehkonen

Andreas Martinsen -- Michael McCarron -- Torrey Mitchell

Andrei Markov -- Shea Weber

Alexei Emelin -- Jeff Petry

Brandon Davidson -- Jordie Benn

Carey Price

Al Montoya

Scratched: Nathan Beaulieu, Dwight King, Steve Ott

Injured: Nikita Nesterov (lower body), Brian Flynn (upper body)


Status report

Hurricanes coach Bill Peters juggled three of his lines at the morning skate, using McGinn on the top line, moving Lindholm to center with Aho and Di Giuseppe, and putting Rask with Nordstrom and Brown. "We wanted to skate that way [Thursday] morning in case we have to go to it," Peters said. "Our last two games we've changed our lines both times after 20 minutes, so this gave us an opportunity to go with that group, but we might start the way we started in Florida [a 4-3 win on Tuesday]." ... Martinsen will play after being a healthy scratch for the past five games. Beaulieu will be out of the lineup for the second time in five games. "As far as who's in and who's not, we're still doing a rotation, simple as that," Julien said.


Who's hot

Lindholm has nine points (three goals, six assists) during an eight-game point streak. … Skinner has six points (five goals, one assist) during a four-game point streak, and 11 points (eight goals, three assists) in his past 10 games. … Slavin has seven points (three goals, four assists) in his past six games. ... Byron has six points (four goals, two assists) in his past five games. Price is 8-1-0 with one shutout and 13 goals allowed in his past nine starts.

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