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Rangers, Canadiens both look to rebound

by Brian Hunter

CANADIENS (23-22-4) at RANGERS (22-19-7)

Last 10 -- Montreal 5-4-1; New York 4-3-3

Season series
-- It's the second of four meetings this season -- the teams will face off again in Montreal this coming Saturday. The Canadiens won the first matchup, 5-4, on an overtime goal by Mike Cammalleri that completed his third career hat trick. In that Oct. 24 game at the Bell Centre, the Rangers raced to a 3-1 lead after one period but were unable to hold on.

Big story
-- Will Henrik Lundqvist have to stand on his head again for the Rangers to even have a shot at this game? It's a fair question to ask given the way their offense has gone ice cold over the past week. There didn't seem to be reason to panic when they peppered Martin Brodeur with 51 shots Tuesday and were shut out 1-0 thanks to a brilliant performance by the future Hall of Famer. But Senators rookie Mike Brodeur blanked them 2-0 Thursday in just his second NHL game, and they managed just one goal in a 4-1 loss in St. Louis on Saturday night.

Team Scope:

-- A four-game homestand came to a disappointing end Saturday as Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson returned to the lineup with a goal and two assists to lead a 4-2 win over Montreal. The Canadiens had points in each of the first three games (2-0-1) and were battling with the Senators for the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference. Instead they fell into a tie with the Islanders, who start Sunday in eighth by virtue of having played one fewer game.

"I just wish we wouldn't have left it to a game where we had to tie it up in the last 2 minutes," Cammalleri said. "I thought tonight was our game to come out and compete and win at home and we didn't do that."

-- The good news for New York was it ended a 172-minute scoreless streak when Brian Boyle backhanded a shot past Chris Mason midway through the second period Saturday. The bad news is the Rangers' offense was once again impotent otherwise, and the Blues scored three goals in the third period against rookie Chad Johnson, who was giving Lundqvist a breather in the front end of a back-to-back situation.

''I thought we played some good minutes tonight, but again, we just don't score goals,'' coach John Tortorella said. ''We've just got to keep on grinding through this and try to find a way to have some sort of consistency.

''The big problem for me right now is our top guys are fighting it. ... I believe they're good people and they'll work themselves out of it.''

Who's hot
-- Benoit Pouliot continues to shine for Montreal, with four goals in his last five games and six in his last nine. Ex-Ranger Scott Gomez has a goal and five points in his last four games. Brian Gionta has three goals and an assist during the same span. ... Lundqvist has given up two goals or less in seven consecutive starts for New York, posting a 4-1-2 record.

Injury report
-- Sergei Kostitsyn and Andrei Kostitsyn are both out for the Canadiens. Sergei is on injured reserve with a left ankle injury, while Andrei had left knee surgery that will sideline him until at least late February. ... Donald Brashear is day-to-day for the Rangers with an undisclosed injury.

Stat pack
-- Embodying the Rangers' offensive woes, Marian Gaborik has slipped to fourth in the League in goals (28) and sixth in points (54). He has just one assist in his last five games and two goals in his last 11.

Puck drop
-- This is a pivotal game in the Eastern Conference playoff race, as the Rangers enter Sunday just one point ahead of the Canadiens. If they don't start supporting Lundqvist with some goals, they'll continue to plummet in the standings.

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