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Canadiens vs Rangers: Game preview, start time, and TV schedule

With only three Saturday nights left in the Habs' season, can the Canadiens use the first to finish a season sweep of the Rangers?

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens have, for the better part of a decade, enjoyed consistent success against the New York Rangers.

One must go back to 2007-08 to find the last season in which the Canadiens did not win the season series between the two teams. And with two wins this season, by a combined 8-1 score, the Tricolore already have this season's series locked up, too.

Tonight's game in particular, however, might be a little bit more difficult than the Habs are accustomed to.

With Montreal's injury list a mile long, and inclusive of several key contributors, the Habs have been powerless to maintain any momentum over their recent schedule. This week alone has seen the Canadiens beat one of the league's premier squads in the Ducks, and start well enough against the highly-motivated Red Wings, only to dig themselves too deep a hole with an abysmal second period effort.

A win tonight would cap the week on a positive note, and put a very green Montreal squad in a positive headspace entering the season's final fortnight. Playing a playoff team with some serious deficiencies, the Habs might just have a chance to do that.

How to Watch

Start time: 7:00 PM EDT
In Canada (French): TVA Sports
In Canada (English):
Sportsnet
In the US: NHL Network, MSG2
Elsewhere: NHL GameCenter, NHL Center Ice

Tale of the Tape

Canadiens Statistic Rangers
34-35-6 Record 42-24-8
4-6-0 L10 Record 5-3-2
51.5 Score-Adjusted Corsi % 47.9
199 Goals For 212
216 Goals Against 194
0.93 5v5 Goal Ratio 1.29
16.6 PP% 18.8
83.6 PK% 77.1

Know Your Enemy

While not to the same extent as Montreal's most recent opponent, the New York Rangers will enter tonight's game with some motivation of their own. The Rangers currently sit second in the competitive Metropolitan division, and while there may be no hope of approaching the stratospheric position of the Washington Capitals, they do have the hard-charging Penguins threatening their home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs.

Alain Vigneault will look to fulfill this evening's important mandate without his superstar goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, who will be given the night off. Like many recent opponents of Montreal, the coach appears content to make do with his back-up between the pipes, but for the Habs, this may represent an opportunity. The surefire Vezina winner has helped the Rangers to the best even strength team goaltending mark in the league, and while Antti Raanta is no slouch, he's much closer to average than he is to, say, 2014-15 Carey Price.

Of course, even without their goaltender to make up for their underwhelming possession numbers, the Rangers have a capable forward group that the Canadiens will have to defend better than they did against Detroit's forwards. The addition of Eric Staal gives New York three lines with at least some scoring punch, and with Montreal's defence in tatters, the Rangers may be able to score enough to make up for Lundqvist's absence.

Last Time Out

The Blueshirts had the benefit of the star keeper last time out, but even his superb skills weren't enough to hold back the Canadiens on that night.

In one of the final games leading up to Montreal's December free-fall, the Habs walked into Madison Square Garden and trounced the Rangers by a 5-1 score.

The scoring was opened when Sven Andrighetto pounced on a rebound outside the Rangers' crease, which he dutifully tapped in. The Habs continued to buzz, but The King made sure that Montreal would not double their lead in the opening frame.

The changed early in the second period. Devante Smith-Pelly, filling on the top line for the injured Brendan Gallagher, showed off some of the natural scoring chance that made him a coveted trade deadline acquisition, banging home a pass from Max Pacioretty to put his team up 2-0.

The Rangers turned it on a little from, earning several high-quality scoring chances in a row and eventually getting one back on a net-front tip past Carey Price. It was a close as they'd get.

The Habs would score two in the first 90 seconds of the third period, including another from DSP, to put the game away. All of this would have been most enjoyable, were it not for the grave consequences that came with the convincing victory. Price did not return to the Canadiens' crease for the third period, and hasn't since. There are many reasons for the Habs unacceptable results this season, but it's not difficult to argue that the Price's injury was the shove that sent them down the slippery slope they've since reached the bottom of.

In their last time out against the New York Rangers, an entertaining Montreal victory was overshadowed by an event of much greater significance. But tonight, with virtually nothing of significance left for Montreal to attain, perhaps they can just focus on continuing their winning tradition against a conference rival.