Hot Start in Carolina

A hot start has Carolina thinking about its Stanley Cup championship team from two seasons ago.

The Hurricanes will try to extend their point streak to eight games Friday when they host the Montreal Canadiens.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Carolina -165 money line favorites (NHL Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 6 goals (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 71% of bets for this game have been placed on Carolina -165 (View NHL Bet Percentages).

Carolina (6-1-3) has earned a point in all but one of its 10 contests and is atop the Southeast Division with 15 points - the same number it had through 10 games in 2005-06, when it won the Stanley Cup.

It's a big turnaround from the start of last season, when losses in their first four games played a big role in the Hurricanes missing the playoffs by four points.

Carolina got off to a 14-3-1 start in its '05-'06 championship season.

"Since training camp, we've had that feeling of camaraderie, that same feeling we had two years ago," veteran defenseman Bret Hedican told the team's official Web site. "Does that mean we're going to win the Cup? No, we're just 10 games into this thing, and there is a long way to go.

"But we're working hard in practice, and it's carrying over into the games."

That was the case Wednesday, as Carolina scored four times in the third period to defeat Buffalo 6-2. Hedican, Eric Staal, Jeff Hamilton and Cory Stillman had goals in the final 20 minutes to lift the Hurricanes.

Staal leads the team with seven goals, and Brind'Amour has two goals and nine assists during a seven-game point streak. Cam Ward, who made 19 saves, improved to 6-0-2 with a 1.85 goals-against average.

"This year we're coming to the rink as a group, and it's just a different atmosphere," coach Peter Laviolette told the Hurricanes' Web site. "There are kids in the locker room doing something they love. Again, it's early on, but we certainly would rather start this way than the way we did last year."

Carolina has already faced Montreal (4-2-2) twice this season, falling 3-2 in overtime at home in its season opener Oct. 3 and winning 3-1 at the Bell Centre on Oct. 13. Justin Williams had three assists in the two games for the Hurricanes, while Canadiens captain Saku Koivu recorded two goals and an assist.

The Hurricanes are 9-1-2 in the last 12 meetings between the teams.

The Canadiens have won their last two games by a combined score of 10-3, including Monday's 6-1 victory over Boston. The five-goal margin was Montreal's biggest since a 5-0 win over Philadelphia on Feb. 5, 2006.

Bryan Smolinski became the 27th American-born player to play in his 1,000th game and assisted on Mikhail Grabovski's first career NHL goal. Alex Kovalev scored his team-leading fourth goal and added an assist in his 999th game.

"It's all about working hard and having fun," Smolinski told the Canadiens' site. "That's how I got here, but I have to admit that all these games went by in a flash."

Koivu had two assists and leads the Canadiens with six assists and eight points. Cristobal Huet made 31 saves and has yielded two goals or fewer in all but one of his six starts.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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