Canes face uphill battle as series shifts to Montreal

Updated: April 25, 2006, 7:13 PM ET
Associated Press

MONTREAL -- The Hurricanes face a most daunting situation, one that seemed highly unlikely when the Eastern Conference's No. 2 seed started the playoffs.

Down 0-2 to the Canadiens in the first round, Carolina must now try to get back in the series at Montreal's raucous, sold-out arena.

"You know it's going to be a great atmosphere, the fans are going to be really crazy, there's no doubt about that," Canadiens captain Saku Koivu said. "Hopefully we can get that energy there that we need, but sometimes there's a chance that you want to do too much so I think we've got to still realize there's a long way to go and what we're doing right now well, to keep doing those things and then just go and fight for a win."

Montreal broke its own NHL attendance record with a season total of 872,193 and has sold out 64 consecutive regular-season games. Most of those fans would have been delighted with a split of the team's first two games in Carolina. Now their seventh-seeded team is two home wins away from a sweep.

"I think a lot of people couldn't have imagined that," Canadiens center Mike Ribeiro said. "For us, to go there and get one was great, and now to come back with two, I think it's amazing. We went there and got two and I think they're going to come here with the same authority to at least get one."

Though the Canadiens only secured seventh place in the conference on the last night of the season, their fans always hold them up to the high standards that come with 24 Stanley Cup championships.

For their part, the Hurricanes were ready for a change of venue -- even if it meant playing in hostile territory -- after dropping two straight at the RBC Center, including Monday's 6-5 loss in double overtime.

"I love Montreal, I'm looking forward to getting there," Hurricanes defenseman Mike Commodore said. "I'm looking forward to play, I can't wait to get on the ice. That place is going to be rocking. It's going to be a lot of fun. We've definitely got our work cut out for us, but we're not out of this by a long way. We're just going to have to play better."

About half of Carolina's lineup, including goalies Martin Gerber and Cam Ward, took part in an optional skate Tuesday before the team flew to Montreal later in the day.

"Montreal has played well, and we're going into a hostile environment," center Doug Weight said. "It's going to be fun. That barn's going to be going, they're going to be feeding off it, and it's going to test everything we have. I really think we're up to the challenge."

It remains to be seen who Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette will start in nets Wednesday after Ward made his first playoff appearance Monday, taking over in the second for Gerber, who was allowed nine goals on 34 shots.

Laviolette wasn't surprised to hear that Gerber hopes to get another start.

"You know what, I'm sure that's exactly what he wants," Laviolette said. "He's a competitive guy. I go back to the Olympics, when he lost to Finland 5-0 in his first game. He came his next game against Canada and stopped 54 out of 54. I watched him play that game, and he was outstanding. He's that type of person."

The Canadiens did off-ice work at the Bell Centre as coach and general manager Bob Gainey chose to give his players some time away from the ice.

Gainey said that defenseman Sheldon Souray has a contusion and is day-to-day. Souray left Tuesday's game in the first with an undisclosed lower-body injury.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press