MONTREAL – On tap this week: a battle bearing playoff implications and a couple of teams with nothing to lose, including one that’s been quite the spoiler of late.
Canadiens vs. Rangers – Tuesday, March 17 @ 7:30 PM
At this point of the season, every game is big. For both the Canadiens and the Rangers, Tuesday’s matchup is likely as big as they come as both teams look to get a tighter grip on a postseason berth.
With Bob Gainey’s troop looking to jump back into fifth and stay within striking distance of fourth place, perhaps a date with New York will be just what the doctor ordered. The Habs have dominated the Rangers in both meetings so far, outscoring them 12-5, thanks to nine different players lighting the lamp.
The Rangers have added some new faces to their team since the two last squared off on Dec. 4, with the arrivals of defenseman Derek Morris, forward Nik Antropov and head coach John Tortorella. While the trio got acquainted their new team, one acquisition found himself in familiar territory; in one of the worst kept secrets, the Blueshirts claimed Sean Avery off re-entry waivers from the Stars.
After a two-month, league-imposed hiatus, Avery has been effective in his return to Broadway, notching five points in six games. The super-pest has been a key factor in the Rangers’ success since his arrival from the Kings in 2007. The team owned a 51-23-16 record with him in the lineup through the end of last season, compared to an 8-10-3 mark without him.Canadiens @ Senators – Thursday, March 19 @ 7:30 PM
The Canadiens hit the road once during a three-week stretch but they won’t be going too far for their lone stop away from the Bell Centre. A trip to Ottawa often feels like a home game for Montreal, with plenty of the Habs’ faithful making the trek. Lately, they’ve been leaving Scotiabank Place with reason to smile, as the Canadiens have won three straight in the Senators’ barn.
Riding a seven-game winning streak against their division rival, Montreal’s offense has certainly come out to play in their meetings this season, scoring 17 goals in four games thus far.
Though their 11-year playoff appearance streak was snapped some time ago, that hasn’t stopped the Senators from getting on a roll of late. Fully embracing the spoiler role, Ottawa has put dents in the spring hopes for the likes of Carolina, Edmonton, Buffalo and Pittsburgh.
After putting up five points in seven games upon returning to Ottawa, Mike Comrie heads into the week without a point since notching a goal and an assist on March 5. Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs – Saturday, March 21 @ 7 PM
Regardless of where either team stands, there’s always feistiness to be found in a tilt between these two Original Six foes. While no team enjoys coming out on the short end of a score, it seems that this year, neither side wants to drop consecutive games to their longtime rival; the clubs have alternated wins and losses in their four meetings so far. Should that trend continue, it would bode well for the Canadiens, who fell 5-2 in the most recent matchup back on Feb. 7.
Not much has changed for Toronto over the course of the season, accumulating more losses than wins and, as a result, the team will get first dibs on tee times for a fourth straight season. Given their status, the Maple Leafs shut down starting goaltender Vesa Toskala for the rest of the year; the Finnish netminder had been suffering through groin and hip problems throughout the campaign.
In need of a backstop, the Leafs picked up a former foe off waivers, adding former Senator Martin Gerber to the fold. In five games in blue and white, the Swiss ‘keeper is 3-2 with 3.20 goals-against average and .893 save percentage.Heather Engel is a writer for canadiens.comVote for the play of the weekRace to the playoffs