The Canadiens (11-4-2) are set to host the Rangers (8-6-2) at the Bell Centre Saturday night. The game starts at 7:00 and airs on CBC and RDS.
This is the second of three meetings between the Habs and Rangers, and their second meeting this week. When these teams met Tuesday night, the Canadiens skated away with a 3-1 victory even though they managed only 18 shots on goal and just 3 in the first period. Ex-Ranger, Brandon Prust, set up the game winning goal when he slid a pass through Henrik Lundqvist’s crease to a waiting Alex Galchenyuk. Raphael Diaz sealed the victory with an empty netter scored from inside Montreal’s zone.
What to Watch:
The Canadiens are coming off a 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Islanders despite leading 2-0 after the first period and 3-1 midway through the second. Max Pacioretty scored twice in the contest but had an opportunity to restore Montreal’s lead late in the third period but failed to bury a golden opportunity.
PK Subban was on the ice for all three of Montreal’s goals but coach Therrien decided not to play the star defenseman during the Canadiens’ 4-on-3 power play with the game tied late in the third period. Subban played just over 21 minutes in the game, which put him behind Raphael Diaz and Josh Gorges. It will be interesting to see if Subban gets more opportunities to play in Saturday’s game.
With Rick Nash still out of the lineup, the Rangers offense has lost some of its punch. After falling 3-1 to the Habs, the Rangers lost 3-2 in a shootout to a decimated Ottawa Senators team. The Blueshirts managed just one goal in their seven shootout attempts against Ben Bishop. Ryan Callahan started New York’s third period rally, which saw the team comeback from a 2-0 deficit, he also scored the team’s only shootout goal. Still, the Rangers’ captain is having a disappointing start to the season with 4 goals and an assist in 13 games.
What’s at Stake:
The Canadiens now find themselves in a three-way tie atop the Eastern conference standings with the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils. Meanwhile the Boston Bruins are hot on the Habs’ heels as well, just 2 points back with 3 games in hand. A win on Saturday will help the Habs maintain their top spot for another day. A win will also help them stay a step ahead of the rest of the competition in the Northeast division, the Maple Leafs and Senators are both tied with the Bruins in points.
After missing the last three games with a concussion, Brendan Gallagher could be ready to re-enter Montreal’s lineup Saturday night. That would leave the Canadiens without only Petteri Nokelainen (back).
The Rangers could potentially be missing a slew of impact players for Saturday’s match-up. Rick Nash is out with an undisclosed injury, speculations on the injury range from a concussion to a groin pull. Michael Del Zotto was injured in Thursday’s game against the Sens and could miss the game in Montreal as well. Darroll Powe (concussion) and Michael Sauer (concussion) are also out.
As good as the Canadiens have been this season, there’s one NHL team that has been undeniably better. The Chicago Blackhawks have earned points in 17 of 17 games so far this season, entering the record books with a 2-1 over the Sharks on Friday. Habs gm, Marc Bergevin, left his assistant gm post in Chicago to take his new position.
Bergevin’s former club has gone over a third of the shortened season without registering a regulation loss, a fact that could provide the Habs with some inspiration as their spectacular bounce back season continues. The Blackhawks haven’t had quite the same success as they did in 2009-2010 when they won their first Stanley Cup in nearly 40 years, but the foundation built by the likes of Bergevin, Habs assistant gm Rick Dudley, Stan Bowman, Dave Tallon and Kevin Cheveldayoff remains strong and continues to pay dividends for Blackhawks fans.
Be sure to tune into the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show an hour before the puck drop and the Post Game Show 5 minutes after the final siren.