Are we here already? Virtually a quarter of the way into the season?
The Montreal Canadiens make their first visit since Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final, when they shook hands and the Rangers punched their ticket to the Cup Final last May.
The Habs (16-5-1) aren’t nearly as whiny or divy as they were last year, and in fact have been quite a bit better than they were at any point last season, coming in as they are off a very complete win over a depleted Bruins team in Boston last night. Their record is the best in the NHL.
The teams met in Montreal earlier this season, a 3-1 Habs win.
The Rangers come off a very impressive 2-0 win over Philadelphia Wednesday, and an unexpected day off when their game in Buffalo Friday was postponed until Feb. 20 due to the snowstorm in Western New York. With the snow-out, the Rangers will have played 14 of their last 18 games at home. They go on the road for the next two, at Tampa Bay Tuesday and in Philadelphia for a matinee Black Friday, then return home for a 1 p.m. game against the Flyers Saturday.
Henrik Lundqvist is back in goal, despite Cam Talbot throwing a shutout in the last game. He is expected to face Dustin Tokarski, after Carey Price beat the Bruins Saturday.
Lee Stempniak (back) is just about ready to play, but will be prucha’d to give him a few more days. So Jesper Fast and Montreal-area native Anthony Duclair both remain in the lineup.
Ryan McDonagh skated again today and is getting closer to returning from a separated shoulder.
Keep an eye on the continuing John Moore-Dale Weise rivalry. They battled in the playoffs last spring until Moore was suspended for a headshot against the ex-Ranger, and they went at it several times in the first meeting this season. Also, as usual, look out for the Habs still seeking retribution against Chris Kreider for what they felt was a semi-intentional sliding into Price that knocked the No. 1 goalie out of the series in Game 1. Meanwhile, there is ex-Ranger Brandon Prust, who broke Derek Stepan’s jaw in Game 3. So a lot of extra-curricular stuff to watch.
Former Ranger Manny Malhotra, the best faceoff man in the NHL since 2007, should have a field day against the Rangers.
After the game, vote for the Three Rangers Stars in the poll on the left.