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Struggling Canadiens set to host Hurricanes

by Sean McCullen

HURRICANES (24-19-9) at CANADIENS (27-20-5)


Last 10: Carolina 7-3-0; Montreal 3-6-1

Season series: This is the second of three games between the teams. The Carolina Hurricanes rallied from a three-goal third-period deficit before beating the Montreal Canadiens 5-4 in overtime on New Year's Eve.

Big story: Carolina jumped past the Columbus Blue Jackets into a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a come-from-behind 3-2 win against Columbus on Monday night. The Hurricanes are third in the Metropolitan Division with 57 points, one point ahead of the Blue Jackets. With 59 points, Montreal is barely holding on to the top wild-card spot in the East after a four-game losing streak; the Canadiens are 8-11-2 since Dec. 9.

Team Scope:

Hurricanes: Carolina fell behind 2-0 to Columbus on goals 17 seconds apart in the opening minutes of the game at PNC Arena on Monday, but used three third-period goals -- the first two by Eric Staal and the game-winner by Jordan Staal – to earn the win and move past the Blue Jackets into a playoff position.

"We knew it was a big game. You don't want to dwell a lot on it in order to let the guys kind of figure it out," coach Kirk Muller said. "They came out and we made a couple mistakes that cost us early, but the guys knew it was going to be a grind. We needed 60 minutes to win the game. I thought it was great because we keep talking about staying the course and keeping that structure winning or losing."

Anton Khudobin made 22 saves against Columbus. He is 11-3-0 with a 2.18 goals-against average and .926 save percentage in 15 games, but has started the past three games, so Justin Peters figures to be in net in the back-to-back situation.

Canadiens: Montreal does not appear spooked by its four-game losing streak (0-4-0), during which the Canadiens have been outscored 19-5. Coach Michel Therrien did not make any drastic changes to his lineup at practice Monday, and the team seemed confident it can get things turned around.

The Washington Capitals beat the Canadiens 5-0 on Saturday, jumping out to a 26-3 advantage in shots on goal a little more than 27 minutes into the game. Goalie Carey Price was pulled for the second time in three games after he surrendered four goals on 26 Washington shots.

The effort did not please the fans at Bell Centre. When Montreal forward Daniel Briere took a harmless shot at 12:44 of the second period Saturday night – the team’s first shot in the period -- Canadiens fans offered sarcastic applause. The sarcastic cheers turned to steady booing before long.

"That's the good thing and the bad thing about playing in Montreal: The fans aren't stupid," defenseman Josh Gorges said Monday.

Many of those fans who were booing Saturday have been calling for the team to fire Therrien, who addressed his job security Monday.

"I've been in this line of work a long time," he said. "Honestly, it's not something I'm preoccupied with. Our preparation for our next game and communicating with our players are the only things I'm concentrating on."

A focal point of that preparation will be finding ways to limit and recover from defensive breakdowns, Therrien said.

Who's hot: Hurricanes defenseman Andrej Sekera, who Monday was named the NHL's Third Star of the Week, has six points (five assists) in the past four games. … Canadiens center David Desharnais has four points (two goals) the past five games.

Injury report: Carolina goalie Cam Ward (heel) is on injured reserve. … Montreal defenseman Davis Drewiske (shoulder) and forwards Alex Galchenyuk (hand) and Ryan White (upper body) are on IR.

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