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Carolina Hurricanes vs. Montr?al Canadiens @NHLdotcom
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GAME: Carolina Hurricanes (20-27-12-3) at Montreal Canadiens (32-25-6-2).

TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST.

The Montreal Canadiens look to extend their winning streak to a season-high four games, and solidify their hold on seventh place in the Eastern Conference when they conclude their season series with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Montreal tied its season-best win streak with three straight victories from Feb. 1-5, but then went on to lose a season-high four in a row after the All-Star break to fall into eighth place in the East.

The Canadiens, however, have rebounded with four wins in their last five games. Montreal extended its winning streak to three Thursday with a 3-2 overtime win on the road over the Boston Bruins.

Craig Rivet scored with one minute left in overtime, and Jose Theodore made 37 saves to lead Montreal.

The recent run of success has the Canadiens back in seventh place in the conference.

"We let other teams get back in the hunt after the All-Star break when we lost four straight," said Montreal captain Saku Koivu, who assisted on Rivet's winner. "But now we are gaining some confidence against quality teams.

"We weren't playing that bad. We just made some big mistakes at key times and otherwise we would have won some of these."

Carolina is also playing well heading into Saturday's contest.

The Hurricanes extended their point streak to five games (3-0-1-1) with a 2-1 road win over the Washington Capitals on Wednesday. Carolina improved to 2-0 on its four-game road trip.

Arturs Irbe made 18 saves in his first appearance for Carolina since Jan. 23, 2003, and Erik Cole and Jeff O'Neill scored to lead the Hurricanes.

Irbe was Carolina's regular goalie during the team's stunning run to the Stanley Cup finals two years ago. He spent the bulk of this season on the injured list before being recalled from Johnstown of the East Coast Hockey League on Feb. 17.

"It's about time we showed up and played a good, hard, aggressive game. They had some flurries, but we had a pretty strong performance from the drop of the puck," O'Neill said.

STANDINGS: Hurricanes - 55 points, 4th place, 25 PB, Southeast Division. Canadiens - 72 points, 4th place, 10 PB, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Hurricanes - Josef Vasicek, 16 goals; Justin Williams, 24 assists; Vasicek and Williams, 33 points; Jesse Boulerice, 95 PIM. Canadiens - Michael Ryder and Richard Zednik, 19 goals; Mike Ribeiro, 37 assists and 53 points; Darren Langdon, 119 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Feb. 26): Hurricanes - Power play: 11.8 percent (34 for 289), 29th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.5 percent (221 for 271), 26th. Canadiens - Power play: 18.4 percent (47 for 256), 7th. Penalty killing: 81.6 percent (199 for 244) 25th.

GOALTENDERS: Hurricanes - Kevin Weekes (19-22-10, 6 SO, 2.24 GAA); Irbe (1-0-0, 1.00). Canadiens - Theodore (25-23-5, 5, 2.18); Mathieu Garon (7-4-1, 2.44).


LAST MEETING: Dec. 27; Hurricanes 2-1, OT. At Raleigh, N.C., Zednik tied it for Montreal at 5:58 of the third period, but Sean Hill scored his second power-play goal of the game 39 seconds into overtime.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Hurricanes - 9-15-4-1 on the road; Canadiens - 17-11-4-0 at home.

Associated Press
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