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Canadiens-Rangers Preview @NHL

After missing their first chance to clinch a playoff spot, the New York Rangers get another crack at it when they host the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday in their final home game of the regular season.

The Rangers (41-29-10) need just one point to wrap up their second straight playoff appearance, and they could hurt the Canadiens' chances with a victory.

Montreal is eighth in the Eastern Conference with 90 points, two behind the seventh-place Rangers. While the Canadiens have been on a roll lately, they need to keep winning to hold off Toronto and the New York Islanders.

The Maple Leafs are one point behind the Canadiens (42-32-6) and those teams finish the season in Toronto on Saturday. The Islanders have 86 points, though they managed to take a point away from the Rangers with a 3-2 shootout victory on Tuesday.

That loss prevented the Rangers from wrapping up a playoff berth, but as long as they don't lose in regulation on Thursday, they'll be back in the postseason.

"We're disappointed we didn't do it tonight," New York forward Brendan Shanahan said.

Win or lose, the Rangers would clinch a playoff spot if the Islanders beat the Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

The Rangers have won four straight at home and seven of nine overall, tying Tampa Bay for the sixth spot in the East. The Lightning, however, have three more victories than the Rangers, and wins is the first tiebreaker in the NHL playoff standings.

New York closes the regular season at Pittsburgh on Saturday.

The Canadiens beat Boston 2-0 on Tuesday night for their eighth straight home win. Jaroslav Halak made 29 saves for his second career shutout, both against the Bruins.

"I'm very happy that I got a shutout but it's more important for us to get the win and the two points," said Halak, who is 7-1 in his last eight games.

Montreal has won nine of 11 and received more good news on Tuesday when the team learned No. 1 goalie Cristobal Huet is ready to return after recovering from hamstring surgery.

Even though Huet is healthy again, Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau plans to stick with Halak, for now.

"The way Jaroslav is playing now there is no question - he will be in the net on Thursday," Carbonneau said. "After that, we'll see.

"If we get a chance to put Cristobal in, we will."

While the Canadiens have been red-hot at home, they haven't fared so well away from Montreal. The team has lost seven of nine on the road and will be eager to return home if it makes the playoffs.

"We hope to be back here in a week and a half for a playoff game," Montreal captain Saku Koivu said. "It's good timing for us. We're hot at the right time and hopefully we can ride it for two more games and into the playoffs."

The Rangers won the first two meetings between the teams before Montreal won 6-4 at home last week. The Canadiens had won six straight at Madison Square Garden before New York won 4-0 on Feb. 27.

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