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Rangers-Canadiens Preview

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GAME: New York Rangers (36-17-9) at Montreal Canadiens (30-23-9).

TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST.

The Montreal Canadiens felt they needed to acquire a goaltender at the trade deadline to enhance their playoff hopes. Cristobal Huet hopes to continue proving they were wrong.

Huet tries to record a second straight shutout as the Canadiens host the slumping New York Rangers.

The 30-year-old Huet, who entered this season with just 14 wins in parts of two seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, made 28 saves Thursday night as the Canadiens beat the Boston Bruins 3-0.

Montreal got goals from former Ranger Alex Kovalev and Sheldon Souray, and an empty-netter from Tomas Plekanec in winning for the fourth time in six games since the Olympic break.

It was the fourth shutout of the season for Huet, who began the season as Jose Theodore's backup. Theodore, the former Hart and Vezina Trophy winner, struggled this year and broke a bone in his right heel while salting the ice outside his Montreal home during the break.

Although Huet played well in place of Theodore, the Canadiens acquired David Aebischer from the Colorado Avalanche for Theodore on Wednesday.

"I have no message to send," Huet said after blanking the Bruins. "It's just important for us to keep moving up in the standings."

Canadiens coach Bob Gainey thinks competition between Huet and Aebischer will help Montreal, which is in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

"However," he said, "it would be difficult to go back to Montreal on Saturday and not start Huet after how he played tonight."

The Rangers also have benefited from strong goaltending as Henrik Lundqvist has put himself in contention for the Vezina and Calder Trophies with a 2.08 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.

Lundqvist, though, has lost his last two games since leading Sweden to the gold medal at the Olympics in Turin. He made 33 saves as the Rangers lost their season high-tying third straight, 3-2 in a shootout to the Atlanta Thrashers on Wednesday night.

Jaromir Jagr scored his 43rd goal, but was caught with an illegal stick in overtime and couldn't take part in the shootout when the referees ruled that his backup stick didn't conform to the rules. The league's points leader with 92, Jagr disagreed with the ruling.

"It was not illegal," Jagr insisted. "I know they're going to measure. Why would I go out with an illegal stick? It depends on how you measure it. You have to measure from the bottom of the stick. If (the referee) doesn't do it, what are you going to do?"

Other than Jagr, the Rangers have struggled to score recently with just four goals during their skid.

New York acquired defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh from Anaheim on Thursday for a third-round pick obtained a day earlier when it sent forward Ville Nieminen to San Jose.

Ozolinsh has two goals - both game-winners - in four games since rejoining the Mighty Ducks following a six-week stint in the NHL's substance abuse program.

STANDINGS: Rangers - 81 points, 1st place, Atlantic Division. Canadiens - 69 points, 3rd place, 20 PB, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Rangers - Jagr, 43 goals and 92 points; Jagr and Martin Straka, 49 assists; Darius Kasparaitis, 87 PIM. Canadiens - Michael Ryder, 24 goals; Saku Koivu, 31 assists; Kovalev, 46 points; Steve Begin, 99 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Rangers - Power play: 18 percent (62 for 345), 14th (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 85.6 percent (321 for 375), 3rd (tied). Canadiens - Power play: 19.1 percent (66 for 345), 7th. Penalty killing: 81 percent (319 for 394), 23rd.

GOALTENDERS: Rangers - Lundqvist (25-8-7, 2 SO, 2.08 GAA); Kevin Weekes (11-9-2, 2.85). Canadiens - Huet (10-6-4, 4, 2.35); Aebischer (25-14-2, 3, 2.98).

SEASON SERIES: Canadiens, 2-1.

LAST MEETING: Oct. 31; Canadiens, 4-1. At New York, Begin snapped a third-period tie with a short-handed goal, and Kovalev added an insurance score just over five minutes later for Montreal.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Rangers - 17-10-4 on the road; Canadiens - 16-7-4 at home.

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