The New York Rangers are facing off against the Montreal Canadiens today at 2:00 PM ET at the Bell Centre in Montreal. The Rangers will look to break out of their mini slump (0-2-1 over their past 3 games) and win in Montreal for the first time since March 17th, 2009. Meanwhile, the Canadiens will attempt to keep the Rangers’ losing streak going while establishing a streak of their own, going for their third straight win. As I pointed out yesterday, Lundqvist is slumping a bit right now and has a history of not playing at his best in Monteeal, and all signs do in fact point to Martin Biron getting the start. Meanwhile, Erik Christensen will be filling in, likely on the fourth line, in place of the again-injured Chris Drury. Other than that I would expect the line combinations to stay the same as against the Devils, at least to start. On defense, I would not be surprised to see Steve Eminger fill in for Del Zotto after being a healthy scratch the past two games, as Del Zotto has done little to jumpstart the powerplay. Continue reading to see some final pre-game notes and thoughts.
-Martin Biron has fared much better against the Habs over his career than Lundqvist, posting a 2.41 GAA as well as a .917 save percentage. Marty has been reliable the whole year outside of one or two awful games and has specifically been very good in his recent showings. I’d expect him to, at the least, keep the Rangers in the game.
-We all know that Marian Gaborik needs to break out of his scoring slump, and while today would be as good a time as any to do so, history isn’t on his side. He only has 3 goals over his career against the Canadiens, although he did have 2 in 4 games against them last year.
-Carey Price is expected to start in goal for the Habs. Coming off his first NHL All-Star Appearance, the Rangers are really going to have to get their offense going if they plan on scoring more than one or two goals. In his only start against the Rangers this season he made 31 saves on 33 shots and got the win.
-Though the Rangers have been nothing short of awful in Montreal the past few seasons, they do catch some luck today. The Montreal back-line is without anchor Andrei Markov, who is out for the season with a knee injury, and Josh Gorges, who has recently become a quality defenseman for the Habs but is also experiencing knee problems. The injury that might help the Rangers the most, though, is to winger Michael Cammalleri, who has 6 goals in 4 games the past 2 seasons against the Rangers but will not play today due to a shoulder injury. The Rangers have virtually their whole core back from injury now, and they need to take advantage of that along with the fact that Montreal is missing some key players.
-Former Ranger Scott Gomez has picked up his play recently but is still struggling overall this season after having an above average one for Montreal last season. He has only 5 goals and 20 assists on the season, and 2 goals in his last 17 games.
The Rangers have almost the whole lineup back from injury and Montreal is having their own injury problems. There’s also been enough practice time and games since previously injured players were inserted into the lineup; chemistry is not a valid excuse. The Rangers are currently one point below Montreal in the standings so this is an important game for them. It would be nice if they could take an early lead or at least stay tied with Montreal early on instead of having to overcome yet another deficit entering the third period. Make sure to visit A Winning Habit to see Rick’s pre-game thoughts from the Montreal perspective.