The Carolina Hurricanes didn't miss a beat in their first contest without Cam Ward. With their star goaltender sidelined for six to eight weeks (sprained MCL), the Hurricanes will face tougher challenges ahead - including Thursday's home date against the Eastern Conference-leading Montreal Canadiens. Justin Peters turned aside 37 shots in his season debut as Carolina held on for its fourth straight victory with a 4-3 triumph over Buffalo on Tuesday.
Montreal saw its 11-game point streak come to an end with a 6-3 road loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday. The Canadiens had been comfortable away from the Bell Centre this season, collecting 14 of a possible 20 points (6-2-2). Montreal has fared well versus Carolina, posting a 3-0 victory on Feb. 18 to improve to 6-2-1 in the last nine meetings.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, RDS (Montreal), SS (Carolina)
ABOUT THE CANADIENS (14-5-4): Carey Price has hit a rough patch after a sterling start to the 2013 season. After yielding 12 goals in his last two starts, Price practiced with additional zeal on Wednesday. "Those certainly weren't my two best games, but at the same time I have to be able to put that behind me and concentrate on getting more competitive," Price said. Backup Peter Budaj has won three straight starts - highlighted by a 19-save shutout against Carolina. Budaj is 2-1-1 with a 1.24 goals-against average versus the Hurricanes.
ABOUT THE HURRICANES (13-8-1): Eric Staal is leading by example during the team's winning streak. The captain notched a season-high three assists on Tuesday and has collected three goals and six helpers in the last four games. Staal has recorded 34 points (17 tallies, 17 assists) in 31 career contests versus Montreal. Dan Ellis, who is expected to be back in net, won his lone career appearance against the Canadiens by turning aside 18 of 20 shots in relief.
1. Carolina RW Alexander Semin has two goals and seven assists during his four-game point streak. The Russian has 22 points in as many career games versus Montreal.
2. Canadiens C Tomas Plekanec scored for the second straight contest and leads the club with 10 goals. Plekanec, who scored in the previous meeting, has 31 points (11 tallies, 20 assists) in 28 career games versus the Hurricanes.
3. Carolina has struggled with its special teams play. The Hurricanes' 14.1 percent power-play efficiency and 78 percent success rate with the penalty kill leave a bit to be desired.
PREDICTION: Canadiens 4, Hurricanes 2