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Game Day: Canadiens @ Rangers

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

NEW YORK – The Habs will look to grab sole possession of the top spot in the East when they face the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.

- It’s been nearly a month and a half since the Habs and Rangers last met during the Canadiens’ 3-0 home opening win at the Bell Centre. In that span, both teams have continued their respective ascents to the top of the standings, now sitting tied at 24 points apiece with the potential to become the No. 1 team in the NHL with a crucial two points up for grabs at MSG. It may only be November hockey, but Max Pacioretty expects a playoff atmosphere when the teams hit the ice in Manhattan.

“Both teams have had a lot of success the last couple of years, this year especially, so this is set up to be a very entertaining game. They have a pretty similar system to us. They don’t give up much defensively while they have speed on the transition,” explained the Habs captain, whose team is facing a red-hot Rangers squad that has gone 9-1-0 in its last 10 games. “The two similar styles are going to clash and hopefully it’ll make for some good hockey tonight

“In the past couple of years with the playoff series between the two teams and a couple of great games, I do see it as a rivalry,” he added. “It’s maybe not one that’s recognized as much as Toronto or Boston, but I see it that way. It’s going to be a tight-checking, hard-nosed game.”

- In addition to the similar systems employed by the two Eastern powerhouses, both teams can also count on some equally elite netminding in the match up. With the reigning Vezina, Jennings, Ted Lindsay, and Hart Trophy winner between the pipes at one end of the ice, and the league’s current save percentage, goals-against, and wins leader at the other, Pacioretty has a few ideas when it comes to solving Henrik Lundqvist in the pending goaltending duel.

“Take away his eyes – the only way to beat him is if he doesn’t see it,” shared the 27-year-old sniper, who leads the team with 11 goals so far this season. “It seems like everything he’s seeing these days, he’s stopping. You have to get second and third chances against a goalie like that and just hope for the best.”

- After missing the last five games with a lower-body injury, Alexei Emelin will be making his return to action on Wednesday night in place of Greg Pateryn, who dished out 18 hits and finished with a plus-1 differential in those five games.

“Pateryn played really well in Emelin’s absence. I spoke to him this morning to explain my decision and he understood,” said Michel Therrien, who did not confirm if Emelin would slide back into his spot next to Jeff Petry or join Tom Gilbert on the blue line against the Rangers. “Emelin plays an important role on our back end. We have a lot of depth on defense so someone will always have to sit. Pateryn is a young defenseman who wants to establish himself in the NHL. When he got his opportunity, he did a great job.”

- Having been called up on Saturday in time to suit up for the Canadiens’ 4-2 win over the Islanders on Sunday, Sven Andrighetto will get his first taste of the Madison Square Garden crowd when he hits the ice for his second NHL game of the campaign. Impressed with the rookie winger’s performance in his 2015-16 debut, linemate Lars Eller is hoping to see more of the same from Andrighetto against the high-flying Rangers squad.

“It’s two teams who don’t give up a ton of scoring chances or a ton of goals. I expect it to be a difficult game, but I expect Sven to play the same way. We’re going to need his skating and his work ethic and his skill. We’re going to need to play the same way we did last game as a line,” stressed Eller of the trio that also includes Alex Galchenyuk. “He’s got a lot of skill and he’s a very smart player and he’s willing to work hard and compete. When you have that, it usually goes well.”

- Puck drop between the Habs and Rangers is slated for 7:00 p.m. EDT at Madison Square Garden. The game is available on RDS, SNO, SNE, 98.5FM, and TSN 690.

- Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.

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