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A stomach virus has left the Montreal Canadiens trying to recover from their first slump of the season.

The Canadiens (23-14-5) try to avoid a fourth straight defeat when they wrap up a three-game homestand Tuesday night against the Atlanta Thrashers (24-12-8).

With several key players weakened - and others out altogether - Montreal lost 3-0 to New Jersey on Sunday to give the team its longest losing streak of the season.

"I'm looking forward to this being over and for guys to get their strength back," Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau said after his team lost for the fifth time in six games. "When you feel like that and you play on consecutive days, it's tough."

Players started feeling sick during a 5-1 loss to the Washington on Thursday, forcing Friday's practice to be canceled. The Canadiens played without center Saku Koivu and rookie right wing Guillaume Latendresse on Saturday and fell 4-3 to the New York Rangers.

Tomas Plekanec, who had three goals in his previous three games, sat out against the Devils.

"I've seen two or three guys get sick, but that many? Never," Carbonneau said. "And playing three games in four days made it worse."

Carbonneau said the entire team would remain home Monday, hoping to regain strength for a stretch in which it will play five games in seven days - including a three-game trip to Philadelphia, Ottawa and Detroit starting Thursday.

"We've got to get a day of rest and then hopefully we'll have everybody back," said Sheldon Souray, who leads NHL defensemen with 14 goals.

Atlanta has also lost its last three games - the last two in overtime. The Thrashers followed a 5-4 defeat to Phoenix on Friday with a 3-2 loss to Washington on Saturday.

Steve Rucchin returned against the Capitals after missing 10 games with a lower body injury and assisted on goals by Ilya Kovalchuk and Glen Metropolit. Atlanta's Kari Lehtonen, though, gave up Alexander Semin's second goal of the game with 17.7 seconds to play in overtime.

"It just drains our energy. We were playing a pretty strong game," Atlanta coach Bob Hartley said. "We got in bad penalty trouble again. You just can't do it. We're fortunate. I'm not a big fan of that extra point, but right now we're getting two free points."

This is the second meeting of the season between the Canadiens and Thrashers. Cristobal Huet stopped 39 shots and Radek Bonk had a goal and assist in the third period of Montreal's 3-1 win at the Bell Centre on Nov. 18.

The Thrashers have alternated wins and losses in their last six visits to Montreal.

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