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Montr?al Canadiens vs. New York Islanders @NHLdotcom
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GAME: Montreal Canadiens (40-28-7-4) at New York Islanders (36-29-10-4).

TIME: Wednesday, 7 p.m. EST.

The New York Islanders hope to solidify their grip on the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference when they host the Montreal Canadiens.

Four straight wins appeared to give the Islanders a comfortable lead over ninth-place Buffalo in the race for the East's final playoff spot, but consecutive losses to Carolina and New Jersey has allowed the surging Sabres to pull within three points.

New York can clinch a third straight trip to the postseason with four points in its final three games regardless of what Buffalo does in its last three contests. The Islanders finish the regular season with games at Carolina Friday and home against Philadelphia Sunday.

Two straight losses has likely cost New York any chance it had of catching Montreal for seventh place.

"You don't want to be looking over your shoulder," Islanders forward Mark Parrish said. "You want to be looking ahead to the playoffs. At this point in the season, you can't help but look at the standings and who's behind you and who's in front of you."

Parrish and Dave Scatchard scored for the Islanders, who managed just 14 shots in a 3-2 loss at New Jersey on Sunday.

"We had a tough weekend," Islanders coach Steve Stirling said. "We played hard tonight, but you can't fall behind with a third goal at the end of the second period. We had a huge mountain to climb."

Already missing injured forwards Jason Blake and Shawn Bates, the Islanders could be without Scatchard on Wednesday. Scatchard left Sunday's game in the third period with a bruised leg after he was hit by a shot.

The Islanders have won four straight at home against the Canadiens, and are 9-2-1-0 in the last 12 meetings there.

Montreal, assured of a playoff spot, needs one point in its final three games to lock up seventh place.

"We're happy to be mathematically in the playoffs," Montreal coach Claude Julien said. "It's something that was our main goal this year."

Coming off since a 3-2 overtime loss at Boston on Saturday, the Canadiens will try to end a three-game losing streak (0-2-0-1).

"We've lost three games in a row and we need to finish strong this week so that we have some momentum going into the playoffs," Canadiens goalie Jose Theodore said.

Montreal hopes to have all-star defenseman Sheldon Souray ready for the playoffs, meaning he could sit out the final three games of the regular season with a wrist injury. Souray has undergone four operations on his wrist, including the surgery that sidelined him all of last season.

STANDINGS (through March 29): Canadiens - 91 points, 4th place, 8 PB, Northeast Division. Islanders - 86 points, 3rd place, 12 PB, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Canadiens - Richard Zednik, 25 goals; Mike Ribeiro, 43 assists and 63 points; Darren Langdon, 135 PIM. Islanders - Trent Hunter, 24 goals and 48 points; Oleg Kvasha, 31 assists; Eric Cairns, 189 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 29) Canadiens - Power play: 17.5 percent (54 for 309), 10th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.3 percent (246 for 299), 22nd. Islanders - Power play: 15.6 percent (49 for 314), 18th. Penalty killing: 85.1 percent (296 for 348), 7th.

GOALTENDERS: Canadiens - Theodore (32-26-5, 6 SO, 2.21 GAA); Mathieu Garon (8-6-2, 2.32). Islanders - Rick DiPietro (21-18-5, 5, 2.36); Wade Dubielewicz (1-0-0, 0.00).

SEASON SERIES: Canadiens, 2-1.

LAST MEETING: Feb. 5; Canadiens, 2-1. At Montreal, Michael Ryder scored at 8:46 of the third period and Theodore made 18 of his 27 saves over the final two periods for the Canadiens.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Canadiens - 18-16-3-3 on the road; Islanders - 24-11-3-1 at home.

Associated Press
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