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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Canes aim for longest win streak of the season

Resurgent 'Canes aim for longest win streak of season vs. Devils

Not many people were thinking playoffs for the Hurricanes after the season's first two months, but a possible postseason berth is getting a little closer to Carolina's reach.

The 'Canes shoot for a season-high fifth straight win and sixth in a row on home ice tonight versus the New Jersey Devils at RBC Center.

Carolina seemed buried in the standings at the end of November thanks to a 5-17-5 start. However, the Hurricanes are 18-13-2 since the start of December and are now within 10 points of a playoff spot. The club has netted 15 goals over its second four-game win streak of the season, giving it a win in eight of its last 10 games following Thursday's 4-3 overtime win versus Buffalo.

The Hurricanes fell behind by two goals in the first period, but Brandon Sutter and Ray Whitney both scored on the power play, with Whitney lighting the lamp with just two seconds left in the frame. Sutter later capped off his first career three-point night by notching his second assist of the game on Sergei Samsonov's game-winner 1:47 into overtime.

"Before we scored the power play goals and Sutter's line goes out and [Tuomo] Ruutu throws a couple hits and we draw a penalty and end up drawing another one, that for me was a turning point because we weren't really skating the way we were going to need to," said 'Canes head coach Paul Maurice.

Manny Legace ended with 30 saves and he has started three of the four games since Cam Ward was sidelined with a back injury. Legace has allowed seven goals over his personal three-game win streak.

Jussi Jokinen added an assist to give him six goals and three helpers over an eight-game point streak. He'll try to keep that run going tonight in the finale of a three-game homestand for Carolina, which will play four of its first five games after the Olympic break on the road.

The Hurricanes made a trade on Friday to bolster their blueline, sending center Matt Cullen to Ottawa for Alexandre Picard and a 2010 second-round draft pick. Cullen, who was on Carolina's Stanley Cup-winning club in 2006, had 12 goals and 28 assists in 60 games this year with the 'Canes, while Picard notched four goals and 11 assists in 45 games with the Senators.

Meanwhile, New Jersey comes to town having snapped a three-game slide with last night's 5-2 victory over Nashville. The win improved the Devils to just 5-9-2 over their last 16 games, but they did up their lead over the second- place Penguins to two points in the Atlantic Division after Pittsburgh lost in overtime to the Rangers Friday night.

Skating in his fifth game since being acquired a little over a week ago from Atlanta, Ilya Kovalchuk had the go-ahead goal in the third period. He also added an assist after going pointless in his previous three games.

Jamie Langenbrunner had a goal and two assists for the Devils, while Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and Patrik Elias all had a goal and an assist. Martin Brodeur made 19 saves in the victory.

Tonight marks the first meeting this season between the Devils and Hurricanes in Carolina. New Jersey took the first two matchups at home, giving them a three-game win streak in the series, but it has lost three in a row at RBC Center.

The Devils have also lost five straight on the road overall.


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