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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 WSH 49 36 9 4 161 110 76
2 FLA 51 31 15 5 141 112 67
3 NYR 51 28 18 5 146 132 61
4 TBL 50 28 18 4 131 115 60
5 BOS 51 27 18 6 149 136 60
6 NYI 49 26 17 6 134 121 58
7 DET 51 25 18 8 125 130 58
8 NJD 52 26 20 6 117 118 58
9 PIT 49 25 17 7 126 122 57
10 PHI 49 23 18 8 117 128 54
11 CAR 52 23 21 8 124 138 54
12 MTL 52 24 24 4 137 141 52
13 OTT 52 23 23 6 142 164 52
14 TOR 50 19 22 9 116 134 47
15 BUF 52 21 26 5 119 137 47
16 CBJ 53 20 28 5 133 167 45

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Faulk 52 14 19 -15 33
K. Versteeg 51 10 21 2 31
V. Rask 50 12 18 0 30
E. Staal 52 9 21 1 30
J. Skinner 52 18 11 -4 29
J. Staal 52 11 16 4 27
E. Lindholm 52 8 16 -7 24
A. Nestrasil 45 5 12 -4 17
R. Hainsey 52 3 11 -14 14
J. Liles 52 5 7 -4 12
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 14 11 5 .905 2.41
E. Lack 9 10 3 .901 2.74
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