CANADIENS (31-20-8) at RANGERS (38-19-1)
7 p.m. ET; MSG, SNE, RDS, NHL.TV
Canadiens team scope
The Montreal Canadiens enter their second game under coach Claude Julien knowing their once-large lead in the Atlantic Division is down to two points. They are 1-6-1 and have scored 11 goals in their past eight games, including a 3-1 home loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday, Julien's first game since he took over for Michel Therrien last Tuesday. However, Julien is quick to note that the Canadiens had one practice under him and were coming off a five-day break in the schedule before playing the Jets. "I don't think we really saw our team for what it's worth in that first game," Julien said. He is hopeful the changes he implemented in practice during the past two days pay off against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Montreal has worked on attempting to play a more aggressive game in the defensive zone to create turnovers that lead to clean, quick zone exits. "We're trying to get more speed coming out of our end through the neutral zone and maybe come up through the middle a little bit more," captain Max Pacioretty said. "A clean exit is always fun for the forward, but you have to put in the work defensively to get that clean exit. It's stuff that when you're playing well you do on your own, but when it's in a system you think about it a little bit more and you incorporate it into your game a little bit more." Julien also talked about the need for the Canadiens to play with intensity that matches their pace. "We tried to create that [Monday] in practice with good intensity," he said, "and you hope it becomes second nature in the game."
Rangers team scope
The Rangers have won seven of their past eight games, including five in a row at Madison Square Garden, and would equal their longest home winning streak of the season with a win against Montreal. The difference in the Rangers' game is most noticeable on the back end and in goal. They have allowed 17 goals in their past eight games, including 13 in the seven wins. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist is 6-1-0 with a .941 save percentage in his past seven starts. "I like our play in the 'D' zone," captain Ryan McDonagh said. "We talked about it last game, Washington is a team that likes to score goals, and we keep them to one goal against. That was a big positive for us. When we play well there it seems like everything falls into place for us with offensive coming off of good defensive zone plays." Although the Rangers are 10-4-0 since the last time they played Montreal, McDonagh admitted they are still feeling some of the sting from that 5-4 loss at Bell Centre on Jan. 14. The Rangers had a 3-2 lead with less than 10 minutes left in the third period, but allowed three goals in 62 seconds and lost the game. "We remember it," McDonagh said. "We'll probably look at some things. We already have this morning, some of the things they do, their tendencies. Certainly you know you can't sleep on this team at any point in the game. They can strike in a hurry."
Canadiens projected lineup
Max Pacioretty -- Phillip Danault -- Alexander Radulov
Paul Byron -- Alex Galchenyuk -- Brendan Gallagher
Artturi Lehkonen -- Tomas Plekanec -- Andrew Shaw
Brian Flynn -- Michael McCarron -- Torrey Mitchell
Alexei Emelin -- Shea Weber
Andrei Markov -- Jeff Petry
Nathan Beaulieu -- Greg Pateryn
Scratched: David Desharnais, Sven Andrighetto, Nikita Nesterov
Rangers projected lineup
Jimmy Vesey -- Derek Stepan -- Rick Nash
Chris Kreider -- Mika Zibanejad -- Mats Zuccarello
Michael Grabner -- Kevin Hayes -- J.T. Miller
Pavel Buchnevich -- Oscar Lindberg -- Jesper Fast
Ryan McDonagh -- Dan Girardi
Marc Staal -- Nick Holden
Brady Skjei -- Kevin Klein
Scratched: Brandon Pirri, Matt Puempel, Adam Clendening
Julien will start with different lines than he used at the start of the game against Winnipeg, when he had Galchenyuk with Pacioretty and Radulov, Plekanec with Byron and Gallagher and Danault with Shaw and Lehkonen. "As he mentioned to us and to myself is that he's still learning about us individually and about our game so not to look too much into stuff like line combinations or time on the ice or different situations," Pacioretty said. "You have to have a combination first before you keep it and I think it's going to take a little bit of time to find those combinations he wants to stick to." … Pateryn will play instead of Nesterov, who played 12:00 against the Jets.
Pacioretty has seven goals and 12 points in his past nine games. … Zuccarello has a goal and an assist in his past two games, giving 23 points in his past 25 games. Nash has assists in his past two games.