RANGERS (16-14-3) at CANADIENS (21-7-5)
TV: CBC, RDS, NHLN-US, MSG
Last 10: New York 4-5-1; Montreal 7-2-1
Season series: This is the last of three meetings this season between the Original Six rivals. The Canadiens have won the first two by a combined 6-1 score. The Canadiens have won seven in a row against the Rangers at Bell Centre and are 9-0-1 in New York's last 10 visits.
Big story: The Rangers are clinging to the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, tied at 35 points with the New York Islanders with a game in hand after winning just three of their last nine. Under these circumstances, facing a Canadiens team that has limited the Rangers to just one goal in two games and dominated them in Montreal is less than ideal.
Rangers: Coming off a listless 3-0 road loss to the Senators on Thursday, the Rangers practiced in Ottawa on Friday before flying to Montreal. Coach John Tortorella had to make room for the season debut of Mats Zuccarello, and it appeared -- at least at practice -- that the player who will be paying the price is Marian Gaborik.
With just one goal in his past 11 games, Gaborik was skating on the Rangers’ fourth line with Kris Newbury and Taylor Pyatt. Zuccarello played with Brad Richards and Chris Kreider, a spot Gaborik was filling for parts of the game Thursday night.
“I have to be better,” Gaborik told The (Bergen) Record’s Andrew Gross on Friday. “I have to get out of this, just get going somehow. We have 15 games left, it’s time to get everybody going and of course myself as well. I just have to get going, that’s the bottom line.”
Martin Biron is expected to start in goal for the Rangers.
Canadiens: The Canadiens should be welcoming Brandon Prust back to the lineup to face his former team after he missed eight games with a separated shoulder. Montreal had a 5-2-1 record in Prust’s absence, but he should add a good dose of grit and leadership as his absence was a noticeable one for the Canadiens, particularly on the penalty kill.
Prust lobbied to accompany the team on its recent road trip through Pittsburgh and Boston, but ultimately the team’s decision to leave him at home appears to have paid off.
“Even though I didn’t really want to [stay in Montreal], it was the right move," he said. "I got some extra treatment here and some good skates in to make sure it’s well rested and ready to go.”
The Canadiens will have Carey Price in goal after he was pulled during a come-from-behind 6-5 shootout win in Boston on Wednesday.
Who's hot: For the Rangers, Derek Stepan has two goals and three assists in his last three games, and seven goals and nine assists in his last 15. Defenseman Michael Del Zotto has a goal and four assists in his last five games, while Rick Nash has three goals and two assists in the same span… Montreal left wing Michael Ryder has four goals in his past four games; his center, Tomas Plekanec, had a season-high three assists in Boston on Wednesday.
Injury report: The Rangers will be without defenseman Marc Staal for a 13th straight game with an eye injury…The Canadiens are missing defenseman Raphael Diaz (concussion), left wing Rene Bourque (concussion) and center Ryan White (lower body).