On Saturday night, the Montreal Canadiens defended their home turf against a team on the brink of failing to qualify for the playoffs. Their opponents lived up to their billing as team that has trouble scoring, and Montreal came away with a solid victory that sealed up a sweep of the season series. As we all know, the team that the Habs did away was the New York Rangers. Tonight, they'll get another chance to take points from a team in a very similar situation - the 9th place, 22nd in offence Carolina Hurricanes.
While one could argue that the Rangers get their offence in spite of the struggles of a couple of their big money players - Gaborik and Richards, namely - the Hurricanes have been enjoying excellent production from their two biggest weapons. Alexander Semin has proven worthy of the one year, seven million dollar deal he was signed to in the off-season, and was recently extended for another five years. He has posted more than point a game riding shotgun for Eric Staal. The Hurricanes captain has been dynamite in 2013, with 40 points in 33 games to date. Staal has never had trouble producing against the Canadiens either, as he's working at a 1.06 PPG rate over 32 career games. Shutting down the Hurricanes dynamic duo will be key to the Canadiens success, and their ability to hold Staal and Semin pointless over their two most recent match-ups is one of the big reasons they've come away with two wins. After the Hurricanes had clawed back to tie the Canadiens at two earlier this month, Eric came close to breaking through, earning a short-handed penalty shot and a chance to give the Hurricanes their first lead of the season against the Canadiens:
If Staal wants to change the way the game plays out this time, he'll have to find a way to get the better of Price. The Canadiens' stalwart netminder will get another start tonight, building on his 34 save shutout of the Rangers on Saturday. Price has posted an excellent .922 save percentage in his 13 game career against Carolina, and will look to add an eighth victory to the seven he has already accumulated against Carolina.
Carey's counterpart will be Justin Peters, who has taken over the starter's role after Cam Ward's season was (potentially) ended by injury on March 4. Peters took the loss against the Habs when he faced them shortly after Ward's injury, but has otherwise held his own with a 3-3 record and a .918 save percentage when not facing Montreal.
In addition to the devastating injury to their starting goaltender, the Hurricanes are also dealing with injuries to depth players Bobby Sanguinetti and Adam Hall, as well as top defenceman Justin Faulk. Tuomo Ruutu has participated in only four games with year, and will be a game-time decision for this evening. The Hurricanes will have Chad Larose back in the lineup after he missed Saturday's contest with Winnipeg due to the flu.
The Canadiens will continue to enjoy the presence of Brandon Prust in their lineup following his return to ice for Saturday's game. Prust had the first and only three point night of his career in the Canadiens second victory. The Habs will be without Rene Bourque and Raphael Diaz as they continue to work through concussion issues, while Ryan White also remains out. Tomas Kaberle has cleared waivers, meaning the Canadiens will have to look elsewhere for a defenceman with dynamic offensive abilities from the back-end.