Canadiens take playoff hopes on the road

By Matt Beardmore
Stats Writer

Montreal (39-27-10) at NY Islanders (25-42-9) 7:00 p.m. EDT

UNIONDALE, New York (AP) — Montreal’s homestand helped it get
back on track. The Canadiens will have to maintain that effort
on the road if they hope to secure a playoff spot.

Montreal, which plays four of its final six regular-season games
on the road, looks for its fourth straight victory at Nassau
Coliseum on Thursday night when it takes on a New York Islanders
team just looking to finish a disappointing season on a positive

The Canadiens, winners of three of four, hold a one-point lead
over Florida for the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final
playoff spot and trail the New York Rangers by one point for the
No. 7 seed.

Tuesday’s 4-1 victory over Chicago capped Montreal’s 3-0-1
stretch at the Bell Centre following a season-high, five-game
slide from March 12-21. The Canadiens, though, are just 3-12-1
on the road since a 5-4 shootout win over Ottawa on January 17.

Carey Price has been a major factor in Montreal’s recent
turnaround. The second-year goalie had 28 saves Tuesday – the
first time in eight games he’s allowed one or fewer goals. Price
was 4-10-3 with a 3.63 GAA from January 21-March 19.

“I think (Tuesday) was his best complete game in some time,”
said Montreal coach Bob Gainey of Price, 3-0-1 with a 2.20 GAA
in his last four starts.

Price has just one win in his last 11 starts on the road, but
made 27 saves in the Canadiens’ last game on Long Island, a 5-4
win on November 1.

Alex Kovalev had two assists and two goals in that victory,
including the game-winner, as Montreal won its third in a row at
Nassau Coliseum.

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The veteran right wing looks to extend his point streak to five
after scoring a goal 25 seconds into Tuesday’s game and
assisting on Andrei Markov’s second-period, power-play tally.

Kovalev is tied with Andrei Kostitsyn with a team-high 23 goals.

Kostitsyn’s younger brother, Sergei, is not expected to play
Thursday after suffering an upper-body injury Tuesday while
getting checked into the boards. Defenseman Roman Hamrlik,
though, traveled with the team after leaving Tuesday’s game with
an upper-body injury.

“Roman should be OK to go tomorrow night against the Islanders
but we’d rather Sergei stay here for treatment,” Gainey told the
team’s official Web site.

New York, meanwhile, is looking to bounce back from Wednesday’s
5-3 loss at Washington – its fifth defeat in six games.

Kyle Okposo, though, continued his impressive rookie season with
his team-leading 18th goal and an assist on Frans Nielsen’s
score as the Islanders grabbed a 2-0 second-period advantage.

Okposo, who has six goals and nine assists in his last 12 games,
scored his fourth career game-winner at Montreal in a 3-2
overtime victory on March 12.

Nielsen had a goal and an assist in that win and in the November
1 loss to the Canadiens. He was out with a right leg injury in
the Islanders’ 4-3 shootout win in Montreal on November 24 as
New York snapped a six-game slide to the Canadiens.

New York leading scorer Mark Streit missed Wednesday’s game with
a strained groin. The former Canadiens defenseman is listed as

Yann Danis is likely to start against his former team for the
third time this season. Danis is 1-1-0 with a 3.52 GAA in his
first two appearances versus Montreal.