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Hurricanes end homestand by hosting Canadiens

by John Kreiser

CANADIENS (31-21-6) at HURRICANES (26-21-9)


Last 10: Montreal 4-5-1; Carolina 7-3-0

Season series: It's the third and final game between the Montreal Canadiens and Carolina Hurricanes. The home team has won each of the first two, though the Canadiens would rather forget their last visit to PNC Arena on Dec. 31, when a 3-0 third-period lead turned into a 5-4 overtime loss.

Big story: It's a big game for the Canadiens, who are trying to hold on to one of the top three places in the Atlantic Division. But it might be even bigger for the Hurricanes, who come into the night three points out of a Stanley Cup Playoff berth and play 16 of their final 25 games away from home, beginning with a five-game trip coming out of the Olympic break.

Team Scope:

Canadiens: No matter what Mac Pacioretty does against the Hurricanes, he'll never have another night like Thursday. Pacioretty had has third career hat trick in a 5-2 victory against the Vancouver Canucks at Bell Centre, but he failed to convert on a pair of penalty shots less than two minutes apart in the second period.

Only one player, ex-Hurricane and Canadien Erik Cole, had taken two penalty shots in a game. Pacioretty became the first player to take (and miss) two in a period.

"I was a bit lost on the second shot. I just couldn't believe it was really happening. Maybe I thought a bit too much," Pacioretty said with a smile after the game. "It's a little embarrassing, getting two chances and not scoring on either shot."

Goaltender Carey Price, whose 42 saves were the other key to the win, could face his Montreal teammate when the Sochi Olympics begin next week. Price could be the starter for Canada, and Pacioretty figures to get plenty of ice time for the United States.

"Pacioretty's obviously an elite player in this league. His skating ability is first-class and that puts him above most other players in the League," Price said. His ability to shoot in-stride is excellent as well."

Hurricanes: Anton Khudobin is making it hard for coach Kirk Muller not to keep riding him. Khudobin grabbed the goaltending job when Cam Ward went down with a lower-body injury and has carried the Hurricanes back into playoff contention. He made 34 saves Friday night in a 5-1 home victory against the Florida Panthers and is 11-4-0 in 15 starts since the start of the new year.

"He's unbelievable," defenseman Brett Bellemore said. "The defense has a good trust in him. If we mess up or if the puck gets through somehow, he's there to bail us out."

Ward has returned from a conditioning stint in the minor leagues and dressed as Khudobin's backup in each of the past two games.

Who's hot: Price is 3-1-1 in his past five decisions, with two shutouts and six goals allowed. … Hurricanes forward Alexander Semin scored against Florida and has eight goals in his past 10 games.

Injury report: Canadiens forward Travis Moen (lower body) left the game Thursday night and didn't make the trip. Neither did centers Alex Galchenyuk (broken hand) and Michael Bournival (facial injuries). … Hurricanes defenseman John-Michael Liles left the game against Florida with a lower-body injury and is questionable.

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