Mired in a season-high four-game losing streak, the Canadiens will look to right the ship against familiar faces on Tuesday night.
Last time out, the Habs fell to the Washington Capitals 5-0 at the Bell Centre. On Saturday night, Alex Ovechkin returned to action after sitting out two games and opened the scoring with less than two minutes elapsed in the first period. John Carlson later added his ninth of the season while John Erskine, Jay Beagle and Casey Wellman all scored their first of the year. Peter Budaj replaced Carey Price at the halfway mark of the game and made seven saves on eight shots against.
With a comeback victory over the Blue Jackets on Monday night, Carolina improved their record to 9-3 since the New Year. Down 2-0 at the midway point of the third period, the ‘Canes roared back to win 3-2 thanks to the Staal brothers. Eric Staal scored twice in the span of 60 seconds to tie the game, and Jordan Staal ensured the win with his goal two minutes later. With Cam Ward on injured reserve, Anton Khudobin made 22 saves on 24 shots for his 11th win of the season.
The Hurricanes, coached by former Canadiens captain Kirk Muller, can count on former Habs Mike Komisarek and Ron Hainsey to hold down the fort defensively. In addition, 27 year-old Andrej Sekera, in his first season on the 16th-ranked defense in the league, is having a breakout campaign with 30 points in 49 games while playing a career-high 23:39 per game. Things have been more difficult for Muller’s troops on the offensive side of the puck, however. Despite Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner producing at nearly a point-per-game pace, the rest of the team is struggling to put the puck in the net. The Hurricane’s 24th-ranked offensive unit has notably been missing the contributions of Jiri Tlusty, who only have eight goals in his first 48 games despite scoring 23 in the same span last year.
Tightening the screw defensively will be of paramount importance for the Habs, who have allowed four goals or more in nine of its past 12 games. Despite the recent breakdowns, however, the team is still ranked 10th overall in the NHL for fewest goals against.
Tuesday’s game will be the second of three match-ups between Montreal and Carolina in 2013-14. In the two teams’ previous confrontation held in Raleigh, North Carolina, the Hurricanes overcame a three-goal deficit to win 5-4 in overtime on New Year’s Eve. However, the Habs have not lost against Carolina at home since February 2012.