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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

note.

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.

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

day-to-day.

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.

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