David Aebischer and the Montreal Canadiens will seek to avoid the season series sweep against the Eastern Conference leading Carolina Hurricanes who have won all three previous encounters outscoring the Habs 20-8 in those three games. This will be the David Aebischer’s first start with the Canadiens since being acquired on March 8th a day before the NHL trade deadline. Jose Theodore who was traded for Aebischer was credited with all three loses to the Carolina Hurricanes this year allowing 14 goals on 65 shots. David Aebischer has yet to loose to the Hurricanes in his young career posting a 4-0-1 record, a 1.76 GAA and a .936 save percentage in his five career starts versus the Carolina franchise. Martin Gerber is expected to get the start for the Hurricanes who have lost three of their last four games.
No Cole for Canes
The Hurricanes will be without their Canadiens killer Erik Cole. Cole has enjoyed playing the Canadiens since the 2001-2002 playoffs when he scored many crucial goals to vault the Hurricanes over the Canadiens in a six game series. Cole has continued his success this season against the Canadiens scoring five times and adding three assists in the first three meetings between the Habs and Canes this season. Cole who is suffering from a compression fracture in one of his vertebra will be sidelined for the remainder of the season at a minimum. The injury was suffered March 4th when Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik illegally checked Cole from behind. Orpik received a three game suspension for the hit. Although the Cole is out the Canadiens cannot breathe any easier as the Hurricanes have bolstered their offence since Carolina stomped the Canadiens 8-2 with the additions of Doug Weight and Mark Recchi. The Canadiens will also be without a crucial part of their line-up as Andrei Markov is expected to miss his second consecutive game.
Still a Battle
The Habs and Canes although separated by 23 points are both involved in a very tight playoff race. The Hurricanes have all but locked up the Southeast Division title but are only leading the Ottawa Senators by a single point for the Conference lead. The Canadiens are battling at the opposite end of the playoff race with six other teams who are vying for the final three spots in the Eastern Conference playoff race, only eight points separate those six teams. The Canadiens are currently holding the eighth and final spot but with a win tonight would hop the Lightning for seventh place and could possibly be within a single point of the sixth place New Jersey Devils.
1. The Carolina Hurricanes already have six twenty-goal scorers already this season while the Canadiens only have one. The Hurricanes also have seven players who have reached the 50-point plateau the Canadiens are yet to have a player reach that milestone.
2. Rod Brind’Amour is the NHL’s second best face-off man he trails only Nashville’s Yanic Perreault.
3. Should Michael Ryder not score tonight it would be his longest goalless streak of the season. He has currently not scored in seven games.