After a few days of waiting, the Canadiens-Rangers series finally gets underway Wednesday at the Bell Centre.
Taking advantage of several days off after their last regular season game in Detroit on Saturday, the Habs face off against the Rangers in the spring for the first time since May 2014, having fallen to New York in six games in the Conference finals that year.
Claude Julien may be able to count on Shea Weber and Jordie Benn returning to the blue line for the first game of the series. The defensemen missed the last four and eight games of the season, respectively. The Canadiens head coach announced earlier in the week that Alexei Emelin, who suffered a lower-body injury last Wednesday in Buffalo, is not yet ready for game action.
Max Pacioretty caught teammate Michael McCarron's stick to the face at Monday morning practice, but is will be suiting up on Wednesday for Game 1, according to Julien.
The Blueshirts will arrive at the Bell Centre with a full roster to start the series.
Video: Canadiens top Rangers, 4-1, for fifth straight win
If the Habs stick to the lines they've been using the last few days in practice, four Canadiens players will enjoy their first NHL playoff action when they hit the ice on Wednesday, including Paul Byron, Phillip Danault, Artturi Lehkonen, and Andreas Martinsen. On the Rangers' side, rookie Jimmy Vesey is the lone playoff first-timer.
Although it may not mean much come the Second Season, Montreal did win all three regular-season games against the Rangers this year. Two of those three games were decided by one goal, and the third was a 4-1 Habs win at Madison Square Garden on March 4.
This series marks the first opening-round playoff series between Claude Julien and Alain Vigneault, who previously crossed paths in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, when Julien's Bruins defeated Vigneault's Canucks in seven games. This will be the 10th time in their history that the Canadiens will face a team coached by one of their former bench bosses in the playoffs. The Habs will be looking to improve their record there to .500, having won four of the previous nine series.