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NHL Network to air Habs-Rangers on Friday @NHLdotcom

The NHL Network will be on hand Friday at Madison Square Garden to see if the New York Rangers can take another step toward locking up first place in the Eastern Conference.

The Rangers, coming off a 4-2 win at Winnipeg on Wednesday, take a five-point lead on Pittsburgh in the race for the top spot in the East into their game against the last-place Canadiens, one of seven on Friday's schedule. The Canadiens, who fired general manager Pierre Gauthier on Thursday, have been off since Tuesday's 3-2 shootout loss to Florida at the Bell Centre.

Viewers in the U.S. can see the game on the NHL Network beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET, while fans in Canada can tune in on RDS and TSN.

Also at 7:30, the Penguins will try to bounce back from a 5-3 loss to the Islanders on Thursday when they visit Buffalo. The Sabres moved into eighth place in the East with a 5-1 win at Washington on Tuesday and enter the night even with the Caps -- both have 86 points, though Buffalo has a game in hand.  And in Detroit, the Wigns will try to hold on to fourth place in the West when they host fifth-place Nashville.

Friday's action starts at 7 p.m. ET when Winnipeg visits Carolina and Florida travels to Columbus. The Panthers saw their lead in the Southeast Division shrink to four points when they lost 3-2 in overtime at Minnesota on Thursday.

Colorado and Calgary both face a must-win game when the Avs visit the Flames at 9 p.m. ET -- the loser will be all but eliminated from the Western Conference playoff race. A half-hour later, eighth-place Los Angeles, coming off a 3-0 win at Calgary on Wednesday, visits Edmonton.

In the final game of the night, Dallas visits Vancouver at 10 p.m. ET in a game that can be seen on the NHL Sports Network in the U.S. and on TSN in Canada. The Canucks damaged Colorado's playoff hopes by beating the Avs 1-0 on Wednesday, the same night the Pacific Division-leading Stars won 3-1 in Edmonton.

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