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Hurricanes-Canadiens Preview

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Just five days ago, the Montreal Canadiens' offense was sputtering when it visited the Carolina Hurricanes. It has quickly gotten back on track.

Alex Kovalev looks to lead the suddenly resurgent Canadiens to their third straight victory when they wrap up their season series with the Hurricanes on Sunday at the Bell Centre.  The game, not scheduled to be broadcast locally in North Carolina, will be televised on The NHL Network in both the U.S. and Canada.

Montreal (18-9-5) scored 16 goals in opening this month 3-0-1, but it managed just four goals in losing its next three games - its longest skid of the season.

After losing to Carolina 3-2 on Tuesday, the Canadiens broke out of their funk with a 5-2 win over Philadelphia on Thursday. Montreal continued its scoring surge Saturday with a 4-3 win over Buffalo, as Kovalev scored with 24.3 seconds left in overtime.

Kovalev is quickly putting his scoring struggles behind him. He's scored in each of his last three games after going 19 straight without a goal, which matched a career-high goal scoring drought set Nov. 14-Dec. 21, 1995.

"Lately I've been more aggressive towards the net," Kovalev said. "Instead of looking for the pass or looking for the perfect play because sometimes it's definitely tough when you're not scoring as much and you kind of look for that perfect play because you almost want to score into an empty net. But sometimes you just have to let it go, get in a comfortable spot and let it go."

Kovalev, who led Montreal with 34 goals and 85 points last season, has three goals and two assists during a five-game point streak versus Carolina (15-13-5).

Sergei Kostitsyn has also been part of Montreal's offensive outburst, scoring two goals Saturday after tallying one on Thursday.

Goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who turned aside 24 shots against the Hurricanes last week, made his sixth straight start on Saturday for the injured Carey Price, who is recovering from a left knee injury. Halak has stopped 60-of-65 shots in winning his last two games after going 1-3-0 with a 2.27 goals-against average in his previous four.

Montreal defeated the Hurricanes 3-2 in a shootout on Oct. 28 to snap a six-game home losing streak to them, but lost the next two meetings this season in Carolina. The Canadiens have had little success against the Hurricanes lately, dropping 11 of 14 since 2005-06.

Carolina lost to Boston 4-2 on Saturday afternoon after going 3-0-3 in its previous six games.

The Hurricanes fell apart in the final period, allowing three goals in the third after yielding just one third-period goal in their previous three games.

"We're getting the feeling that if we're just a little bit faster we'll be OK, but it's clear that our legs are not there yet," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said.

Goaltender Cam Ward stopped 32 shots on Saturday after going 2-0-1 with a 1.59 GAA in his previous three games. He made 22 saves on Tuesday against the Canadiens, and is 8-2-2 with a 2.45 GAA lifetime against them.

Eric Staal, who leads Carolina with 13 goals, scored two in the win over Montreal last week.

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