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Hurricanes-Canadiens Preview @NHLdotcom

GAME: Carolina Hurricanes (44-15-6) at Montreal Canadiens (31-24-9).

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

The Carolina Hurricanes are trying to hold on to the top spot in the Eastern Conference, while the Montreal Canadiens are trying to just qualify for the playoffs.

The Hurricanes will visit the Canadiens in a possible first-round playoff preview.

Doug Weight scored two goals and added an assist to help the Hurricanes to a 5-3 win Tuesday over the New York Rangers. The win gave Carolina 44 wins - 27 at home - and 94 points, all franchise records surpassing their marks set in 1986-87 as the Hartford Whalers.

"I love the fact that this team feels I can be a big piece of the puzzle to help us win," Weight said. "That excites me. It's a big move. You're away from your family and you're nervous about your teammates, and I'm the kind of guy I want to show them every shift that I'm worth it.

"I feel really strong on the ice. I plan on contributing and still my main goal is just to fit in on this team and help make them better. And I plan on doing that."

Weight has three goals and three assists in the last three games after only notching one assist in his first 10 with the Hurricanes. He was acquired Jan. 30 in a trade with the St. Louis Blues.

The center has 19 assists and 26 points in 24 lifetime games against the Canadiens.

Carolina has outscored Montreal 20-8 in winning the last three meetings. The Hurricanes also are trying to hold off the Ottawa Senators, whom they lead by one point, for the Eastern Conference lead.

The Canadiens are in eighth place in the East, which would qualify them for the playoffs against the top-seeded team. They are one point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for seventh and three points ahead of the Atlanta Thrashers, who are in ninth.

Montreal was defeated 2-1 at home Monday by the Lightning, who ended goaltender Cristobal Huet's at 163 minutes, 11 seconds.

"That's a tough loss," Huet said. "They're a direct opponent for a spot in the playoffs and we let that one slip away in the second period."

Huet has helped put the Canadiens into playoff contention with a 8-2-3 record, 1.67 goals-against average, five shutouts and a .941 save percentage in his last 13 starts.

The Canadiens will need Huet to continue his superb play since the offense has only scored 184 goals, which is tied with the Washington Capitals for second lowest in the East.

Alexei Kovalev leads the team with 48 points, the lowest of any leader in the East.

STANDINGS: Hurricanes - 94 points, 1st place, Southeast Division. Canadiens - 71 points, 3rd place, 22 PB, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Hurricanes - Eric Staal, 39 goals, 47 assists and 86 points; Mike Commodore, 97 PIM. Canadiens - Michael Ryder, 24 goals; Kovalev and Saku Koivu, 31 assists; Kovalev, 48 points; Todd Simpson, 116 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Hurricanes - Power play: 18.5 percent (80 for 432), 8th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.8 percent (294 for 355), 15th. Canadiens - Power play: 19.0 percent (68 for 358), 7th. Penalty killing: 81.3 percent (326 for 401), 22nd.

GOALTENDERS: Hurricanes - Martin Gerber (31-10-4, 3 SO, 2.72 GAA); Cam Ward (13-5-2, 0, 3.49). Canadiens - Huet (11-7-4, 5, 2.24); David Aebischer (25-14-2, 3, 2.98).

SEASON SERIES: Hurricanes, 3-0.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 31; Hurricanes, 8-2. At Montreal, Erik Cole recorded his third career hat trick and added an assist, while Gerber made 32 saves.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Hurricanes - 17-10-5 on the road; Canadiens - 17-8-4 at home.

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