Canadiens-Hurricanes Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 05, 2012
The Montreal Canadiens still have a chance to avoid a dubious distinction the storied franchise has never suffered. Erik Cole may just help them avoid it. The former Carolina forward looks to stay hot as he and the Canadiens visit Raleigh for the Hurricanes' home finale Thursday night. Montreal (30-35-15) has not finished at the bottom of a conference since conferences were introduced in 1974. Its most recent last-place finish in anything bigger than a division came in 1939-40, when the club placed last in the seven-team NHL. With two games remaining, the Canadiens remain in the Eastern Conference cellar, but they're just two points behind the New York Islanders and three back of Toronto. They host the Maple Leafs in Saturday's season finale. The Habs have lost six straight on the road, but they snapped a four-game overall skid with Wednesday's 5-2 home victory over Tampa Bay, with Cole getting a pair of second-period goals. "It was a lot of fun," said linemate Max Pacioretty, who had two goals and an assist of his own. "It's important for us to show our fans that we're not that far from being a contending team." Cole has scored seven times in his last six games, giving him a career-high 34 goals in his first season with Montreal. He spent at least part of each of his previous nine NHL campaigns with Carolina. The Hurricanes (32-32-16) are trying to escape the Southeast Division basement. They trail the Lightning by just one point thanks to their 2-1 victory at Ottawa on Tuesday and the Canadiens' win the following night. Carolina hasn't finished last in the division since 2002-03. "It's important to finish the season strong even though we're out of the playoffs," Cam Ward said after making 38 saves against the Senators. "Guys are still out there sacrificing and sticking up for one another." Eric Staal needs one point in the final two games to reach 70 for the seventh straight season. The Carolina captain has elevated his game down the stretch, posting 32 points and a plus-9 in 28 games since the beginning of February following a difficult first half. Staal has 18 points in his last 11 games against Montreal, including two goals and an assist during a decisive third period in a 5-3 road win in the most recent meeting Feb. 13. Hurricanes winger Tuomo Ruutu suffered an injury early in that game, causing him to miss nearly a month. On Tuesday, he scored his first goal since returning, ending a 14-game drought. It's possible Canadiens defenseman Tomas Kaberle may play his first game in Raleigh since a brief, disastrous stint with the Hurricanes. Kaberle has been out with an upper-body injury since March 12, but has said he's trying to return before the end of the season. Carolina signed Kaberle to a three-year, $12.75 million contract last summer, but traded him to Montreal for Jaroslav Spacek on Dec. 9 after he posted a minus-12 in 29 games. At the time of the trade, Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford told reporters he "should have known better" with regard to signing Kaberle. The Canadiens fired their GM, Pierre Gauthier, last week.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

WATCH: Dwight Howard ejected for hanging on rim

NHL rumors: Capitals acquire Blues’ Kevin Shattenkirk in bold trade

Report: Chiefs making ‘strong push’ to make Eric Berry highest-paid safety in NFL

Dana White hints at Conor McGregor's next opponent

Report: Steelers make Brown NFL's highest-paid WR

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Chiefs sign Duvernay-Tardif to five-year extension

MLB considering introducing 'stickier' baseballs

Report: Browns have discussed trading No. 12 pick for Garoppolo

Report: Lowry expected to miss 4-5 weeks, return for playoffs

Report: Cowboys to release Romo in coming weeks

Report: Jennings expected to sign with Hornets

It's time for Satchel Paige Day in Major League Baseball

The best sports movies available to stream right now

Biggest surprises and disappointments of the NBA season

Top 10 shortstops in baseball for 2017

The most dangerous NBA teams flying under the radar

Eat, Drink, Watch: Your award-worthy weekend planning guide

Grading the NBA trade deadline on the Vince Carter scale

As NHL trade deadline nears, seven teams who could be dealing

Box Score 2/24: A night of NBA disrespect

The 'Pete Rose instead of Kareem? Surely, you can't be serious' quiz

Streaming sports docuseries you don't want to miss

Teams that can prevent a Cavs-Warriors NBA Finals three-peat

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

It's time for Satchel Paige Day in MLB

The best sports movies available to stream right now

Biggest surprises and disappointments of the NBA season

As NHL trade deadline nears, seven teams who could be dealing

QUIZ: Name every MLB pitcher to win 20 or more games in a season since 2000

Top 10 shortstops in baseball for 2017

The most dangerous NBA teams flying under the radar

Grading the NBA trade deadline on the Vince Carter scale

Eat, Drink, Watch: Your award-worthy weekend planning guide

Streaming sports docuseries you don't want to miss

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker