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Canadiens vs Hurricanes: Game preview, start time, & TV schedule

Can the Habs earn a season series sweep of the Hurricanes?

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens and Carolina Hurricanes are something of opposites.

The Habs are absolutely reliant on a trio of in-their-prime stars. They consistently fail to generate chances for and suppress changes against. Nonetheless, the team is well-positioned to be a perennial playoff contender, and did an effective job of improving their squad at the trade deadline.

The Hurricanes are not going to the playoffs this year. Despite some serious holes in their lineup, the immaturity of some of their most talented players, and a string of injuries to some of their known quantities, the Hurricanes have persevered. Nonetheless, their position in the standings dictated their actions at the trade deadline, which consisted of selling their most valuable and expendable assets for futures.

How to Watch

Start time: 7:30 PM ET
In the Canadiens region (French): RDS
In the Canadiens region (English):
Sportsnet East
In the Hurricanes region: FoxSports Carolinas
Elsewhere: NHL GameCenter, NHL Center Ice

Tale of the Tape

Canadiens Statistic Hurricanes
44-20-7 Record 26-34-9
4-4-2 L10 Record 4-4-2
48.6 Score-Adjusted Fenwick % 51.0
187 Goals For 162
159
Goals Against 189
1.18 5v5 Goal Ratio 0.77
16.0 PP% 19.4
84.4 PK% 85.0

Know Your Enemy

The Canadiens have already dispatched Carolina twice this year, and with March 2 behind us, the Hurricanes find themselves even weaker.

Slick rearguard Andrej Sekera is a Los Angeles King. Their streaky scorer and some-time first liner, Jiri Tlusty, is now in Winnipeg. Veteran defender Tim Gleason, meanwhile, is now depth for the Washington Capitals.

Of those three departed players, Sekera's absence will be most significant. In fact, with his puck-moving skills unavailable for Bill Peters this evening, once could argue that the trend of important Hurricanes players failing to suit up against Montreal is continuing.

The Habs have yet to see a full Carolina lineup in 2014-15, as Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin both missed the first match-up of the year between these two teams. Semin's injury persisted into the second contest, and while his season numbers are underwhelming, he is still in the conversation for the Carolina player most able to score at  a moment's notice.

Another subject of that same conversation is defenceman Justin Faulk, who can likely stake his claim to the mantle of Hurricanes MVP. At just 22 years of age, Faulk is leading his team in scoring, and is one of his team's most effective possession players, even when saddled with responsibility in his own end. There is a stark lack of skill at the bottom of Carolina's roster, but between players like Faulk and the Staal brothers, the team can still ice a pretty impressive top line.

Unfortunately for Hurricanes fans, the efforts of all of their skaters continue to be undermined by some of the league's poorest goaltending. To make matters worse, the poorer of their two goaltenders will take to the crease this evening. With an even strength save percentage of just 90.5, Anton Khudobin hasn't stopped much of anything this season. Only a select few NHL goaltenders have put up worse numbers this year, but the brutal campaign of Khudobin and Cam Ward makes up only half of one of the NHL's lowest PDO figures.

Believe it or not, the Carolina Hurricanes, who are in the league's bottom five when it comes to goals per game, are a top 10 outfit when it comes to producing scoring chances. In that way, perhaps familiarity with the Habs star starter will be the key to Carolina's success tonight. After all, if their percentages are any indication, the 'Canes  shoot like they're playing Carey Price game in and game out.

Last Time Out

Carolina lived up to their toothless reputation three months ago,  as Montreal held Carolina to just one goal for the second time this season. Les Tricolore earned a 3-1 victory on December 29, building on a 4-1 win on December 16.

While Alex Galchenyuk's hat trick was catalyst in the first win, the third line keyed the offence this time. Jiri Sekac opened the scoring with a beautiful backhander from the slot. Then his centreman made it two to zero, as Lars Eller put an imperceptible wrister past Ward. The goal was the 21 000th in Canadiens history, and more than enough to bury the hapless Hurricanes.

Eric Staal would cut into the league, but Carolina simply couldn't break through. Max Pacioretty would ice the game with is empty netter late in the third, giving Montreal three goals on just 19 shots.

When it comes to results, there's no question that the Canadiens have been the superior squad this year. Regardless of outcome, however, perhaps a glimpse of their inverse identity will teach them a much-needed less in process.