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Hurricanes minus Staal for game with Canadiens

by Brian Hunter
HURRICANES (29-24-9) at CANADIENS (32-23-7)


Last 10:
Carolina 4-3-3; Montreal 3-5-2

Season series:
Third of four meetings this season. Seven different Canadiens scored and Tomas Plekanec led the way with a four-point night in their 7-2 win in Montreal on Nov. 13. They also edged the Hurricanes 3-2 in Carolina on Dec. 23 as Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexandre Picard scored power-play goals 2:03 apart in the second period.

Big story: In the race to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, the Hurricanes maintained a three-point lead over the Sabres for eighth by beating the Penguins on Friday. They suffered a potentially damaging loss in the process, however, as captain Eric Staal left in the second period after being hit by defenseman Matt Niskanen and suffering an upper-body injury.

"He won't play (Saturday), but we're hopeful he'll play our next game (at home Tuesday against Florida)," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said.

Team Scope:

While the injury to Staal was bad news for Carolina, most everything else to come out of Friday's 4-1 win over Pittsburgh could be classified in the positive category. Defensemen Jay Harrison and Joe Corvo staked the Hurricanes to a two-goal lead after 20 minutes, Erik Cole and Jussi Jokinen scored to pad the lead and Cam Ward stopped 33 shots. Cory Stillman finished plus-2 in his first game back after Carolina reacquired him from Florida.

"We had some guys score some goals with some traffic," Stillman said. "They're little things in the game, but it was fun to get back in there and get in the battle. If you go there, eventually one will hit you and go in the net, and if not, you cause traffic and someone else can score."

Canadiens: Even when Montreal tries to give No. 1 goalie Carey Price a night off, the NHL's leader in games played at his position ends up having to log his share of minutes. Alex Auld got the start against Toronto on Thursday, but after he yielded three goals on nine shots in 13:02 of game time, Price was summoned and finished out the 5-4 loss. Jeff Halpern and Mike Cammalleri each finished with a goal and an assist for the Canadiens.

"It's part of the game and any time it happens you're obviously not happy about it," Auld said. "When you start the game you intend on finishing it. Obviously three goals in half a period isn't what I need to do to help our team."

Who's hot:
Jokinen (3-1-4), Cole (1-3-4) and Harrison (2-1-3) have carried the Hurricanes offensively over the last two games.

Injury report:
Staal's injury is the only one Carolina is dealing with currently. … Montreal forward Mathieu Darche (groin) and defensemen Andrei Markov (knee), Josh Gorges (knee) and Jaroslav Spacek (lower body) are on injured reserve. Markov and Gorges are out for the season.

Stat pack:
Friday's game was the third this season for the Hurricanes in which two different defensemen scored goals. … Canadiens captain Brian Gionta is seventh in the League with 237 shots. Staal, with 231, is eighth.

Puck drop:
Stillman was a member of Carolina's championship team in 2006 and often played on a line with Cole.

"Stillman is an intelligent player," Maurice said. "I think Erik Cole likes the idea of having it on his stick because it lets him get moving a little bit. Erik is playing the best hockey I've seen him play consistently now for a while. He's strong and he's skating and making good decisions. He definitely has a synergy with Cory Stillman."

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