CANADIENS AT RANGERS
(New York leads best-of-7 series 2-1)
TV: NBCSN, CBC, RDS
Big story: The New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens should be especially motivated in Game 4 of an Eastern Conference Final that saw the intensity ramp up in a matter of hours. What appeared to be a one-sided affair through two games escalated in Game 3 at Madison Square Garden.
That stems primarily from the announcement on Friday that New York's No. 1 center, Derek Stepan, will likely be out with a broken jaw sustained on a hit by Montreal forward Brandon Prust, who received a two-game suspension for the play. The Rangers will also be without forward Daniel Carcillo, who was assessed a 10-game ban for pushing linesman Scott Driscoll in a skirmish involving Prust.
The Rangers' frustrations with Prust, who did not receive a penalty on the first-period hit, was exacerbated by how well New York played in the 3-2 overtime loss. Planning to channel the raw emotion that has been generated in the past few days, the Rangers expect to be rewarded for a strong effort in Game 4.
"I look at our Game 3 and I thought we played better than we did in Game 2, different outcome. We've got to find a way to finish on some of our opportunities. We've looked at a couple of areas that I think we can work on and maybe get better looks," New York coach Alain Vigneault said on Saturday. "Our group is definitely going into [Sunday's] game feeling good about how we're playing, and we're going to try to put our best foot forward."
Canadiens: The day after being suspended two games for his hit on Stepan, Prust met with the media on Saturday to discuss his hit and Stepan's injury, which he described as "unfortunate."
"For me, it's my first shift of the game. I'm trying to create some energy. I want to get out there and get some body checks in," Prust said. "I try to skate in front of him and stop and come back into him; kept my skates on the ice, my shoulder into his chest. I didn't leave my feet. It's all about the timing. It's a fraction of a second. It's late, but for me my focus was on trying to make a good, clean body check."
With Prust out of the lineup, the expectation is that rookie Michael Bournival will take his spot on the Canadiens' fourth line, where he took some shifts in the first round against the Tampa Bay Lightning and in the second round against the Boston Bruins. Veteran Travis Moen, who played four games against Boston, could also be available.
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien refused to tip his hand when asked on Saturday how his lineup would look for Game 4.
"It's tough for me to talk about that question because I'm not sure what type of lineup [the Rangers] are going to put in [Sunday] night," he said.
Rangers: With Stepan and Carcillo out, J.T. Miller will be inserted into the lineup. But the Rangers should benefit from the return of center Derick Brassard, who sustained an upper-body injury in Game 1. Brassard declared himself ready to return after practice on Saturday. Before sustaining the injury, he was a major offensive catalyst for the Rangers, scoring four goals in the seven-game second-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Brassard's return should help compensate for the loss of Stepan, although Vigneault insisted the Rangers would go through the proper channels before officially declaring the center ready for Game 4.
"The players obviously want to play, but we're not going to put anybody in a bad situation," Vigneault told the media on Saturday. "He cleared himself to you before he spoke to me, so he must be feeling better than he was yesterday."
Who's hot: Forward Max Pacioretty has sparked Montreal's offense with six points in his past six games and Daniel Briere has two goals in his past four games, both of which came in the final minutes of regulation. … Rangers fForward Martin St. Louis has three goals and six points in his current five-game point streak. Forward Chris Kreider has two goals and four points during a three-game point streak.
Injury report: Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (knee) is out for the series. … Stepan (jaw) is out for New York. Brassard (upper body) has been out, but is expected to play.
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