Game Preview: Carolina Hurricanes at Montreal Canadiens 2-18-13

Riley Nash makes his season debut with the Hurricanes tonight in Montreal. - Jamie Kellner

The Carolina Hurricanes head back on the road for a match-up against the Montreal Canadiens tonight, but they will be without a key contributor as forward Jeff Skinner is out of the line-up.

Carolina Hurricanes at Montreal Canadiens
Monday, February 18, 2013 - 7:30 pm EST
Bell Centre - Montreal, Quebec
TV - Fox Sports Carolinas HD Radio - 99.9 The Fan
SB Nation Canadiens Blog: Eyes on the Prize (twitter @HabsEOTP)

Hurricanes Record: 8-4-1 (17 points)
Canadiens Record: 9-4-1 (19 points)

Game Notes

Tonight is the first of three match-ups this season between the Hurricanes and the Canadiens. The two teams split last season with identical 2-1-1 records. Both teams come into tonight's game having won three games in a row, so one winning streak will be broken. The Hurricanes are coming into the Bell Centre on a four-day break after a 3-1 home win last Thursday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Canadiens defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 at home on Saturday night.

For the Hurricanes, the big news is the absence of forward Jeff Skinner, who is out tonight with an upper body injury. Skinner skated in an optional limited practice on Friday, took Saturday off with the rest of the team, and arrived at Raleigh Center Ice on Sunday for practice before it was determined he would not practice or make the trip. While there is no official word on Skinner's injury, he missed 16 games last season with a concussion, and took a couple of hard hits in Thursday's game against the Leafs. Head coach Kirk Muller says therehe will be evaluated tomorrow (here's his audio from yesterday's practice). Skinner is currently second on the team in both points and goals scored, behind captain Eric Staal.

As to who will replace Skinner in the line-up, there are a few options. The Canes are already carrying an extra forward so a call-up is not required, although there is speculation that Riley Nash could get the call from Charlotte (he was a healthy scratch for the Checkers in last night's game against the Grand Rapids Griffins). If Nash is indeed called up, he could take a turn at center, which would allow Jussi Jokinen to move to Skinner's spot on a line with Jordan Staal and Patrick Dwyer. I'll post an update if there is any official news on a transaction or information coming out of the morning skate.

Defensemen Joni Pitkanen and Tim Gleason are also absent from the trip, as they continue to recover from lower body concerns. They are officially listed as day-to-day, and Bobby Sanguinetti and Michal Jordan will remain in the line-up to hold down their roles.

Eric Staal continues to ride a points streak, now at eleven consecutive games (the longest current points streak in the NHL). Staal is also third in the NHL in plus/minus (and is the top forward), and line mates Jiri Tlusty and Alexander Semin are in the top ten. The three have combined for 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists) so far this season. Defenseman Joe Corvo has five points in four games after sitting out three games as a healthy scratch.

The Canadiens are 5th in the Eastern Conference and 2nd in the Northeast Division. After suffering three straight losses including a 6-0 beating at the hands of the Maple Leafs on February 9th, they have rattled off three straight wins and have allowed only four goals in those three games.

The Canadiens have some injuries of their own. Forward Brendan Gallagher is out with a concussion suffered in Saturday's game against the Flyers. Alexei Emelin, Max Pacioretty, and Colby Armstrong have all suffered minor injuries and are listed as day-to-day but probable for tonight's game. Defenseman P.K. Subban did not practice with the team on Sunday and is said to be suffering from flu symptoms. He is questionable for tonight's game.

One player to watch out for is Tomas Plekanec, who leads the Canadiens in points (7 goals, 5 assists) and averages over a point per game against the Hurricanes (30 points in 27 games played). Of course, there's another forward on the roster by the name of Erik Cole who also tends to find another gear when he faces his former team. On the flip side, there's a fellow by the name of Kirk Muller who had quite the career himself in Montreal and will certainly be eager to face his former team. Both of last season's wins against the Canadiens came after Muller took over as Hurricanes head coach.

Peter Budaj will be in net tonight for the Habs. Carey Price was out of the line-up Saturday with the flu, but will be backing up Budaj tonight. Budaj is 1-1-1 in three games against the Hurricanes.

Bob will provide some additional analysis on tonight's game later this afternoon, and we'll have the game thread ready to go at 7:00 pm. See you there.

UPDATE 11:50 am:

Riley Nash has officially been recalled, and Tim Gleason has been placed on IR retroactive to 2/12 [Press release].

A few line updates from Chip Alexander on twitter - Jussi Jokinen is skating with the second line (Jordan Staal and Patrick Dwyer), Tim Brent is centering Chad LaRose and Andreas Nodl, and Riley Nash is on line with Drayson Bowman and alternating Wallace and Westgarth.

Defensive pairs are Justin Faulk - Jay Harrison, Joe Corvo - Jamie McBain, and Bobby Sanguinetti - Michal Jordan.

For the Habs, both Pacioretty and Subban skated this morning, so they should be able to play.

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