Rangers @ Canadiens
Bell Centre, 7:00 p.m. Saturday
Rangers record: 26-16-3
Canadiens record: 24-17-3
On the heels of one of the New York Rangers’ best wins of the season, the Blueshirts will cross the border into Montreal, where they are unlikely to come across any enthusiastic ‘USA!’ chants from the Bell Centre crowd. When the Rangers face off against the Canadiens Saturday night, both teams will certainly have this past Tuesday’s game in mind, as well as the games these two teams played in between.
The Rangers will look to avenge Tuesday night’s loss, in which they let a 1-0 lead evaporate as the Canadiens snagged the eventual 2-1 victory. They will also have their eye on Montreal defenseman P. K. Subban, who slewfooted Brandon Dubinsky and was responsible for several other questionable plays.
The Canadiens want to follow up an embarrassing loss to Pittsburgh on Wednesday with a bounce-back win against the Rangers. Montreal has given up the first goal in their last six outings, and although they managed to pull through for the win against the Rangers, battling back proved to be more difficult against even a Sidney Crosby-less Pittsburgh team. The Habs played an undisciplined hockey game, giving up four unanswered power play goals and falling to the Penguins 5-2.
Benoit Pouliot, whose sharp-angle shot ended up as the game winning goal against the Rangers Tuesday night, tallied an assist in Wednesday night’s game to bring his point total to twenty. Rookie call-up David Desharnais scored his first NHL goal to pull the Canadiens ahead of the Penguins in the second period, but the Habs were not able to hold on to the lead. Like the Rangers, the Canadiens are dealing with injuries to several key players, but many other players have stepped up in the interim. Defenseman James Wisniewski, who ranks second on the team in points with twenty-eight, has only been a positive addition to the team since being traded by the Islanders on December 28th.
At this point in the season, the Rangers have shown that they are for real. Thursday night’s victory against the red hot, league-leading Canucks was not a pleasant anomaly, but a paradigm of the Blueshirts’ play this season. Newcomer Wojtek Wolski scored the game’s only goal and his first as a Ranger, becoming the seventeenth Ranger player to pot a game winning goal. This eye-opening statistic demonstrates the team’s unbelievable depth, and Thursday’s game was a perfect example of this. Although Henrik Lundqvist was voted the clear number one star of the game by earning his sixth shutout of the season (tying Boston’s Tim Thomas for the league lead), nearly ever Ranger made a case for being the close second. The Brandon Prust-Brian Boyle-Ruslan Fedotenko line has continued to be superb, and Coach Tortorella felt confident enough in this line to match them up against the powerhouse Sedin twins. Marian Gaborik’s scoring woes continue, but in Thursday’s game he tied Brandon Dubinsky for a team-high six shots on goal and earned the primary assist on Wolski’s power play goal.
There is always the possibility of a team feeling cocky after such a thrilling victory and, as a result, underperforming in the next game. The Canadiens, on the other hand, will be motivated to play much better than they did in their previous game. For this reason, the Rangers may have a tough time in Montreal. Saturday’s exciting matchup is a “must win” for both teams—but only one will walk away with the victory.