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Canes Hope to Capitalize on Playoff Lifeline

Wednesday, 03.30.2011 / 11:29 AM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Canes Hope to Capitalize on Playoff Lifeline

As the Canes return home to face the Montreal Canadiens, they do so with renewed hopes in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Paul Branecky
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By way of their 3-2 shootout win in Washington and Buffalo’s regulation loss in Toronto Tuesday, the Hurricanes now trail the Sabres by three points with six games remaining. Should the Canes get another victory tonight, they could potentially close the gap to just one point if Buffalo simultaneously falters against the New York Rangers.

Such a scenario would put Carolina’s destiny back in its own hands, as it would still have to play well down the stretch but would no longer need help from around the league to qualify for the postseason, as a head-to-head win over the Sabres on Sunday could then put the Canes in playoff position.
There’s still some work to be done before that can happen, but the Canes are certainly closer now than they were yesterday.

”I think we’ve played very well here for probably two weeks, and it was good to get that feeling and a win,” said coach Paul Maurice.

The Canes’ first hurdle will be against a Montreal team that emphatically broke a 199-minute, three-game goal drought with two tallies in 11 seconds in an eventual 3-1 win against Atlanta on Tuesday. The fact that both teams will be playing for the second consecutive night should give the Canes some hope that they can improve upon their 6-11-1 record in the second half of back-to-back games.

“We haven’t had a lot of success in our last group of back-to-back nights,” said Maurice. “We felt the game against Tampa (a 3-2 loss on Saturday) was a close game, a fair game and that the energy was even. Montreal played last night, so we feel that at least it’s even.”

Conversely, the Hurricanes have an outstanding 12-3-4 record in the first half of consecutive games. As one may expect, Montreal is also better on the first halves, but their split isn’t quite as drastic (10-5-1 in the first, 6-6-3 in the second).

Tonight’s game matches up two power plays that appear to be heading in different directions. On the heels of a 4-for-75 (5.3 percent) stretch on the man advantage lasting from Feb 10 to March 22, the Canes have scored 4 goals in their last three games, converting at 28.6 percent in that span.

“I think our puck movement is the key right now,” said Maurice, whose team took a 1-0 lead on Jussi Jokinen’s power-play tally, his first goal in 13 games, at Washington. “We’ve moved the puck better at five-on-five, and we’re doing it five-on-four as well.”

Meanwhile, Montreal has scored just twice in its last 34 opportunities, having converted at just 5.9 percent since March 10.

Having just avoided a six-game season sweep at the hands of Washington, the Hurricanes will again try to dodge historical infamy against Montreal. The franchise has not gone winless against the Canadiens since the 1983-84 season, when Hartford went 0-7-1 against its Adams Division opponents.

Maurice said that the Hurricanes will have no lineup changes for tonight’s game, with Troy Bodie and Jay Harrison as the scratches. The Canes did not skate on Tuesday morning.


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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Skinner 82 28 23 -2 51
V. Rask 80 21 27 -6 48
J. Staal 82 20 28 6 48
E. Lindholm 82 11 28 -23 39
J. Faulk 64 16 21 -22 37
J. Nordstrom 71 10 14 1 24
A. Nestrasil 55 9 14 4 23
R. Nash 64 9 13 -5 22
N. Hanifin 79 4 18 -14 22
J. Slavin 63 2 18 1 20
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 23 17 10 .909 2.41
E. Lack 12 14 6 .901 2.81