For the past several years, the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers have been battling for top spot in their divisions, bolstered by their elite netminders giving fans a show in net every single match up.
This year however, both teams have struggled mightily, with Montreal sitting near the bottom of the Atlantic Division, while the Rangers haven’t been able to keep pace and have sunk to last in the Metropolitan.
Carey Price won’t be in net for Montreal after he missed practice due to a Shayne Gostisbehere shot to the head, however it is expected that Henrik Lundqvist will be starting for the Rangers as both teams play for pride and draft position.
It’s unclear if either Antti Niemi or Charlie Lindgren will get the start for Montreal. Niemi was chased early in a loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, and at the NHL level this year Lindgren has performed admirably, meaning the young netminder could be the one to start for Claude Julien.
How to watch
Start time: 7:30 PM EST / 4:30 PM PST
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Rangers region: MSG2
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL GameCentre Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
The target of most Habs fans ire in Chris Kreider is still on the shelf for the Rangers, and long-time star Rick Nash hasn’t had a great season to showcase himself as he prepares to be likely dealt at the trade deadline. Leading the team in scoring however is, Mats Zuccarello with 43 points, while Michael Grabner continues his resurgence in the Big Apple with 25 goals this year.
For the Canadiens, they’ll be looking to get offence from anywhere that they can get it, after players like Paul Byron and Jeff Petry continued to shoulder the load.
First-round pick Noah Juulsen was recalled from Laval after Jakub Jerabek was traded to the Washington Capitals. Hopefully his recall is a signal that younger players are going to see an expanded role, meaning more ice time for players like Charles Hudon and Artturi Lehkonen who have been among the best on the roster for the past few weeks.
Perhaps most importantly is that the team needs to look like they care at all. During their current losing streak the team has played boring hockey, and looked generally disorganized most of the time. It’s one thing to lose, it’s another to be dreadfully dull during it and turning off fans who are already unhappy.
The Rangers are a deeply flawed team, without the depth to match even the meagre offensive force in Montreal. Opening up the tanks and playing high-risk hockey with young guys leading the charge is the perfect strategy for Claude Julien now. There’s no harm in doing so, as the worst outcome is you might lose the game and better your draft position.