As if a game between two Original Six rivals jostling for playoff position needed any added ingredients of intensity, the New York Rangers
were still steaming Saturday over a slew foot administered by Montreal Canadiens
defenseman P.K. Subban
on Rangers center Brandon Dubinsky
four days earlier.
Subban wasn't penalized on the third-period play Tuesday night, and with the Canadiens ultimately winning at Madison Square Garden by a 2-1 score, an added Rangers power play could have had an impact on the game.
Rangers coach John Tortorella did not mince his words Saturday when asked to comment on the incident.
"It's a dirty play," he said. "But we're a smart enough hockey team not to get wrapped up in that stuff."
Indeed, though most of the Rangers remained a little hot about it Saturday, everyone was far more concerned with avenging the loss to the Canadiens on home ice than they were with Subban in particular.
"Hopefully he does it again, gets a penalty, and we score on the power play," Dubinsky said.
Hulking center Brian Boyle
had his nose broken in a separate incident with Subban and admitted that it remains on his mind.
"You don't want to be too worried about it, but you don't forget. You just can't let it get you too rattled," he said. "We just have to make his life miserable, but from a hockey standpoint."
Subban, for his part, found himself once again at the center of yet another controversy based on his aggressive style of play.
It's fair to say that his rookie season to date has been pretty well defined by his ability to get under his opponents' skin, to the point where players are so frustrated with him it leaks into their post-game comments with the media.
The Rangers have had four days to cool down from the game Tuesday night, yet were still clearly upset about it Saturday.
Subban, however, says he doesn't see what all the fuss is about.
"I'm not an agitator. If I wanted to be an agitator, I'd make sure I had that reputation," Subban said with a shrug. "Maybe they feel that way because they play against me and they don't have success against me. Maybe that's the agitator part."
Perceived controversies aside, the matchup promises to be a good one between two traditional rivals separated by only four points in the Eastern Conference standings.
Tortorella will dress Kris Newbury
in his first game in a Rangers uniform Saturday night, and he'll center a line with Sean Avery
and Chris Drury
The Canadiens, meanwhile, will welcome Mike Cammalleri
back to the lineup after a two-game absence due to strep throat.
"There will probably be some short shifts at the start of the game," he said. "But don't hold me to that."
Rookie Max Pacioretty
missed practice with some flu symptoms Friday but he says he feels fine to play Saturday night, though coach Jacques Martin said he will be a game-time decision.
The goaltending matchup will pit fellow All-Stars Henrik Lundqvist
and Carey Price
against each other. The Bell Centre has not been kind to Lundqvist, who has a 3-2-2 record, 4.65 goals-against average and .845 save percentage in Montreal since the start of the 2006-07 season.