GAME: New York Rangers (18-16-6-4) at Montreal Canadiens (23-16-5-2).
TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST.
The red-hot Montreal Canadiens go for their fourth straight victory when
they host the New York Rangers, a club playing some of its best hockey of the
The Canadiens have been off since Wednesday, when they defeated Atlanta 2-1
for their third win in a row and sixth in seven games.
Montreal got a big break, as Mike Ribeiro scored for the Habs with 101/2
minutes remaining when an Atlanta player inadvertently knocked the puck in his
"All I was trying to do was challenge the defense," Ribeiro said. "It was
a lucky goal, but I'll take it."
Luck hasn't been a major factor in the Canadiens' outstanding run. Montreal
has been dominant during the last seven games, outscoring opponents 27-6 in its
six wins during the stretch. The Habs have allowed more than one goal once in
those six victories.
Montreal has gained points in 10 straight games, going 7-1-1-1 in that span,
and has pulled within one point of third-place Boston and two points of
second-place Ottawa in the Northeast Division.
A resurgent Jose Theodore has been a major reason for the Canadiens'
outstanding play. On Wednesday, he stopped 18 of 19 shots in the third period
and finished with 36 saves.
Theodore has lowered his goals-against average to 2.02, and feels he has
gotten back to the form that earned him the Hart Trophy as league MVP two
"I'm better now," Theodore said. "I'm more experienced. I have better
communication with my defense."
Theodore is likely to be back in net Saturday against an improving Rangers
team that is coming off an encouraging 3-3 tie with New Jersey on Thursday
Mark Messier set up Matthew Barnaby for the tying goal with 1:49 left in
regulation for the Rangers, who put together a solid effort against a club that
has dominated them during the regular season in the past seven years. New York
is 1-21-13-1 versus the Devils since Feb. 17, 1997.
"The Devils are a good team and they very rarely beat themselves," Messier
said. "We have to play start to finish to beat them."
Playing consistent and hard for 60 minutes from game to game has been the
Rangers' biggest problem this season, but the hard-fought draw Thursday
followed a 4-1 win over the New York Islanders on Tuesday.
Center Eric Lindros has been a catalyst for the Rangers' surge,
rediscovering his physical style of years past and recording four goals and
seven assists in the past 12 games.
"It's a trickle-down effect," Barnaby, Lindros' linemate, said. "When
he's playing like that, he gets everybody fired up."
The Rangers, 2-0-1-1 in their last four, are five games into a stretch of 14
games in 23 days -- all against Eastern Conference opponents, and many against
teams that New York is battling for a playoff spot.