Hurricanes vs. Canadiens: Key Players in Eastern Conference Showdown

Sam StrykerContributor IIIFebruary 18, 2013

Canadiens goalie Peter Budaj will see his second-straight start in net.
Canadiens goalie Peter Budaj will see his second-straight start in net.Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

The Carolina Hurricanes and Montreal Canadiens both enter Monday’s contest at the Bell Center on hot streaks. The Hurricanes have won four straight games while the Canadiens have taken three in a row.

Monday’s contest in Montreal features two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. The Hurricanes currently sit atop the Southeast Division, while Montreal sits at fifth in the conference standings.

Several players will play a key role in determining whether the high-octane Hurricanes or the red-hot Canadiens go home with the victory.

Canadiens goaltender Carey Price may lead the NHL in wins, but he will sit out a second-straight game Monday night due to a bout with the flu, according to Stats LLC. That means Montreal backup goalie Peter Budaj will get another start in net, and is the most important man on the ice for the Canadiens.

Budaj will try to stonewall the high-flying Hurricanes offense, which scores an average of 3.15 goals per game, good for sixth-best in the NHL.

Budaj hasn’t seen a lot of action this season—Monday will be his fourth game of the season—but he looked good in his start Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers. He backstopped the Canadiens to a 4-1 win, allowing just one goal on 19 shots.

If Budaj can bring the same sort of focus to Monday’s contest, the Hurricanes better watch out.

The Hurricanes, who have won five of six, will look to defenseman Joe Corvo to continue to quarterback the offense. Corvo has been on fire, scoring five points in his last four games, including two goals.

Carolina can already count on a corps of dangerous forwards including Jeff Skinner and Eric Staal to keep the Canadiens on their toes. But with a defender with offensive pop on the ice like Corvo, the game changes for both teams.

If Corvo continues his hot streak tonight, expect him to lead the surging Hurricanes offense.

Also key to the Hurricanes’ performance tonight will be how the team performs on the penalty kill, led by defenseman Joni Pitkanen. At 24:31 per game, Pitkanen leads the Hurricanes in ice time and will be crucial in assuring that the slumbering Canadiens power play won’t awaken.

Montreal has just one power play goal in 18 chances over the past four games, but the Hurricanes rank 29th in the league in penalty killing, stopping opposing teams an abysmal 70.9 percent of the time.

If Pitkanen can raise his game Monday and lead the Hurricanes penalty-kill unit, the offense should do the rest for Carolina.