MONTREAL – Neither the New York Rangers nor the Montreal Canadiens will know exactly what their respective lineups will look like for their game at Bell Centre on Saturday night until just before the puck drops.
Rangers defenseman Marc Staal was surprisingly absent from the morning skate as he stayed at the team hotel battling the flu. Fellow defenseman Michael Del Zotto was on the ice but left before the skate was completed. Del Zotto did not finish Thursday night’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators after taking a hard check from Marc Methot midway through the third period.
The defensemen are game-time decisions, according to Rangers coach John Tortorella, who will already be missing top-line left wing Rick Nash and fourth-line checker Arron Asham. The Rangers have called up Christian Thomas from the Connecticut Whale of the American Hockey League, but his plane had mechanical issues and Tortorella did not confirm he would be in.
On the Canadiens side, former Rangers forward Brandon Prust also is a game-time decision, according to coach Michel Therrien. Prust did not practice with his teammates Friday and did not take part in an optional skate Saturday morning.
If Prust misses the game, it will aid Therrien's decision as to who will come out to accommodate the return of rookie Brendan Gallagher from a concussion. If Prust plays, he likely would be on the team’s fourth line, bouncing out Ryan White, Colby Armstrong or Travis Moen.
The Rangers will start backup Martin Biron, who has a history of playing well against the Canadiens, sporting a 14-12-1 record, 2.42 goals-against average and .917 save percentage against Montreal. Starter Henrik Lundqvist has historically played poorly against the Canadiens, particularly here.
Here are Saturday night’s projected lineups. The Rangers' lines are based on the morning skate, so Del Zotto and Staal are not listed:
Taylor Pyatt – Brad Richards – Marian Gaborik
Carl Hagelin – Derek Stepan – Ryan Callahan
Chris Kreider – J.T. Miller – Jeff Halpern
Brandon Mashinter – Brian Boyle – Christian Thomas
Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi
Matt Gilroy – Anton Stralman
Steve Eminger – Stu Bickel
Injured: Michael Del Zotto (game time), Marc Staal (game time), Rick Nash, Arron Asham
Rene Bourque – Tomas Plekanec – Brian Gionta
Max Pacioretty – David Desharnais – Brendan Gallagher
Alex Galchenyuk – Lars Eller – Erik Cole
Travis Moen – Ryan White – Colby Armstrong
Andrei Markov – Alexei Emelin
Josh Gorges – Raphael Diaz
Francis Bouillon – P.K. Subban
Injured: Brandon Prust (game time), Petteri Nokelainen
Scratched: Tomas Kaberle, Yannick Weber