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
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
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