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Carolina (41-26-7, 89 points) is trending toward a playoff spot, but the Hurricanes sense they can’t afford missed opportunities.
“It feels like it’s do-or-die,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said.
His team has won three of four games in a five-game homestand. That includes Saturday night’s 5-1 whipping of the Minnesota Wild.
The Hurricanes were riding high following the latest result, after a ragged third period two nights earlier against Tampa Bay.
“A lot of that is that belief (that we’ll get it right),” defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk said. “That’s the one thing about this league — you don’t have to wait too long for another opportunity.”
The Canadiens will arrive coming off a 7-4 victory against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night. Montreal (40-28-7, 87 points) has won three straight games since a brutal stretch earlier in the month.
“It’s a critical time for us,” said Canadiens right winger Brendan Gallagher, who scored twice and added an assist against Buffalo. “Everybody has to show up, do their job and contribute like we’ve been doing. We have that confidence in each other that we’ll be fine.”
The Canadiens don’t want to think about wearing down at this stage of the season, as they prepare for the road game on a back-to-back.
“Everyone is going, and we want to keep everyone fresh,” Montreal defenseman Victor Mete said.
The Hurricanes are generally stronger in the second of back-to-back games, going 11-3-1 in such contests.
Carolina and Montreal are sitting in wild-card position for the playoffs, with just two points separating the teams, though the Hurricanes have a game at hand. Columbus is three points back of Montreal with a game at hand.
“Every game you come closer to the end of the season, the games become bigger and bigger,” Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce said.
The Hurricanes are in a situation with the lineup dictated by who’s most game-ready, as ailments are piling up. Forwards Justin Williams, Jordan Staal and Sebastian Aho have left recent games because of injuries before returning.
That’s typical for March.
“There’s a few guys who have been nicked up,” Brind’Amour said. “It’s that time of year. It’s a little bit of a full training room right now.”
Williams, the Carolina captain, had an assist Saturday night, giving him 300 points with the franchise. He’s the ninth player to reach that mark with the club since the franchise relocated to North Carolina.
Montreal and Carolina have both had strong offensive games recently. The Canadiens have 14 goals over their last three, and the Hurricanes have 15 in their last four.
Carolina has split two games with the Canadiens this season, with both those games in Montreal.
With Saturday’s outcome, the Hurricanes finished 19-8-3 against the Western Conference teams this season, setting a franchise record for the most wins against the Western/Campbell Conference in one season.
–Field Level Media
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