Montreal (27-15-8) at Washington (23-23-5)

  • Game info: 7:00 pm EST Thu Jan 31, 2008
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Despite some impressive numbers, Cristobal Huet was not selected to the All-Star team. The Washington Capitals must find that hard to believe.

Huet and the surging Montreal Canadiens look to match a season high with their fourth straight victory Thursday night when they complete a home-and-home series with the Capitals.

Few teams are currently as hot as the Canadiens (27-15-8), who have gone 10-2-2 in their last 14 games to pull within six points of Eastern Conference-leading Ottawa. Montreal leads the East with 17 road victories, and is 6-1-1 in its last eight away from home.

Leading the way for the Canadiens has been Huet, who stopped 35 shots for his second shutout of the season in a 4-0 victory over the visiting Capitals on Tuesday.

“Goalies say they don’t think about it, but they do,” Huet said after his 15th career shutout. “You can’t change your mind, really. You’ve got to stay focused on the process to get there, not on the shutout itself. It’s like winning a game. You can’t focus on winning the game, you’ve got to focus on the process to get there.”

Huet has won both of his starts this season against Washington (23-23-5), stopping 70 of 72 shots. He is 6-2-0 with a 2.12 goals-against average in eight career starts versus the Capitals.

Huet, though, hasn’t just played well against Washington lately. He is 7-2-0 with a 1.94 GAA during a stretch of nine straight starts.

Mark Streit, Sergei Kostitsyn and Saku Koivu had first-period goals Tuesday for Montreal, which has outscored opponents 16-5 during a three-game win streak, its longest since a four-game run from Oct. 20-27.

“We had a really strong first period,” Koivu said. “We wanted to get the fourth goal and we weren’t sitting on the lead, but at the same time we were playing well defensively and playing smart defensively.”

Alex Kovalev added his team-leading 22nd goal late in the third period after he took a Tom Poti slap shot off his right thumb early in the second.

“It’s really blue,” Kovalev said, holding up his bruised thumb which had darkened under the nail with pooled blood. “I don’t know if it’s broken or not, I’m going to have X-rays, but it’s just a thumb. I still have four fingers left.”

Washington entered the All-Star break after splitting a home-and-home series with Toronto, and will try to salvage a split of another home-and-home on Thursday. The Capitals have lost two of three overall following a season-best four-game win streak.

“I think everything goes in peaks and valleys,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau told the team’s official Web site. “When we were scoring five and six goals a game there you know that’s not going to continue. What should continue is allowing one and two goals a game.”

Washington has gone 30 straight games without suffering consecutive regulation defeats, a streak that is in jeopardy Thursday. It is the franchise’s longest such run since it went 32-9-1 with seven ties in the final 49 games of the 1999-2000 season.

Alex Ovechkin has gone two straight games without a goal, matching his longest drought of the season. He leads the NHL with 39 goals.

The Canadiens are 2-0-1 this season against the Capitals, including a 5-2 victory at Washington on Dec. 20. Montreal is 7-1-1 in the last nine overall meetings between the teams.

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Thursday, Jan 31