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Game preview: Rangers @ Canadiens

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

RANGERS (3-1-0) @ CANADIENS (4-0-0)

TV: RDS, SN 360, 7:30 p.m.

After playing their first four games of the season on the road, the Canadiens return home to the Bell Centre on Thursday night where they will host the New York Rangers in Montreal’s 2015-2016 home opener.

The Canadiens are off to their best start since 1977-1978, with a perfect record of four wins in their first four outings. In addition, this marks the first time in team history that a Canadiens team has won their first four games of the regular season all on the road. Standing alone atop the NHL standings, the Canadiens became only the third team in NHL history to accomplish the feat, joining Chicago in 1965 and the New York Islanders in 2001-2002.

On Tuesday night the Habs played the role of spoiler during the Penguins home opener in Pittsburgh, taking the game by a score of 3 to 2. The captain Max Pacioretty scored his third and fourth goals of the campaign while Tomas Fleischmann chipped in with his first goal in a Habs uniform to seal the victory. Carey Price played his part, turning aside 31 of the 33 shots he faced.

The Rangers, who started the season with three consecutive victories, were defeated by Winnipeg Jets in their last contest by the score of 4-1. Despite throwing 41 shots at Jets goaltender Michael Hutchinson, only Mats Zuccarello would go on to fill the score sheet for the Rangers. Meanwhile, Henrik Lundqvist made 25 saves on 28 shots against Winnipeg, ending his evening with a save percentage of .893.

Pacioretty, the Canadiens leading scorer for the past four straight seasons, is once again leading the way in the scoring department with four goals and two assists thus far this season. Following closely behind are defensemen P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov, as the defense partners have each accumulated four assists this season. On the Rangers side, rookie Oscar Lindberg has had a hot start to his NHL career, finding the back of the net four times. Versatile forward J.T. Miller is tied in first place with the rookie on the Rangers scoring list, collecting four assists for New York to start the season.

Michel Therrien confirmed Wednesday afternoon that he will not be making any lineup changes for Thursday night’s home opener against the Penguins. Forward Paul Byron and defensemen Greg Pateryn and Jarred Tinordi will therefore have to wait to make their regular season debuts.

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault could be making some last minute changes to his roster, hinting at the possibility that Emerson Etem might play his first game for New York, slotting into the fourth line, but the coach has yet to reveal who will sit in his place.

Fans at the Bell Centre will be treated to a goalie duel between two former Vezina award winners, Price and Lundqvist. So far this season, Price has a save percentage of .945 and an exceptional goals against average of 1.67 after three starts. Lundqvist, meanwhile, has played the Rangers first four games since the start of the regular season, with an average of 2.26 goals per game in addition to a save percentage of 0.933.

The game will begin at 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcasted on RDS and Sportsnet 360.

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