RANGERS at CANADIENS, 7 p.m.
MSG 2, 1050 AM
MONTREAL -- Every hockey game has its ebbs and flows, and when the ebbs start coming at the Rangers, there's a place Chris Kreider wants his team to go back to.
"Dumb the game down," the left winger said. "It's not a big ice surface; everyone skates well, a lot of big boys out there. They're going to be in your face, they're going to limit your time and space. And if you're trying to make plays, there's that stubbornness when you shouldn't be making plays, when you should be just getting pucks behind them and grinding them down. That's what leads to odd-man rushes, that's what leads to chances. That's winning hockey."
That's what the Rangers felt they did in their win over the Washington Capitals on Wednesday, and it's what they'll look to do on Saturday night when two teams collide at the Bell Centre with both of them looking to rebound from a loss to the Ottawa Senators
Montreal opened a five-game homestand on Wednesday night with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Sens, the Canadiens' third consecutive defeat following a three-game win streak.
The Blueshirts opened their own back-to-back on Friday night dropping a 4-1 decision in Ottawa, in which the Senators held a lead for 59 minutes and after which the Rangers left the Canadian capital a frustrated group that they were unable to follow up two strong games in a row by carrying their momentum on the road.
"If you watch that Washington game again, I'm sure it looked like awful hockey for stretches where we're not making plays, we're just getting pucks out, getting pucks in," Kreider said. "That's what you have to do."
"If we can take that step and be ready each game like we were in the (Washington) game, I think we can go on good runs. But we need everybody, starting with myself," said Henrik Lundqvist, who made 35 saves in Ottawa. "We all need to try to come out of this and be more consistent, starting with preparation mentally, and just be ready for a war. That's what it is."
After Lundqvist took the last three starts, Alexandar Georgiev will backstop the Blueshirts as they wrap up their third back-to-back set of the season: the Rangers' 23-year-old goaltender spoke last year when he returned here of the place the Bell Centre holds in his heart, as the rink where he made his NHL debut on Feb. 22, 2018. Georgiev was stellar that night, too, stopping 38 of 40 shots and setting a Rangers record for a goaltender in his NHL debut.
Georgiev said that game left him with "good memories. … Pretty amazing feeling to play in that building."
Both teams have undergone pronounced turnover since that game: Only five Rangers (including Georgiev) and six Canadiens who played in Georgiev's debut will suit up for those respective teams on Saturday night. Among the many newcomers, of course, is Artemi Panarin, who saw his point streak halted at 12 games on Friday night in Ottawa, a career high that stands one game shy of matching the longest point streaks in the League so far this season. Panarin has recorded a point in 16 of his 20 games as a Ranger.
Before the second period of Friday's game was over, Panarin was skating on a line with Kreider and Filip Chytil as Quinn shook up his lineup from top to bottom. With the second half of a back-to-back looming in a congested stretch of schedule, Quinn also eased off the minutes for Ryan Strome, Panarin's usual center, who played 16:18 after topping 21 minutes the last five games straight.
Montreal, meanwhile, has managed just six goals over its three-game losing streak, though they picked up a point for reaching overtime in two of those - in fact, the Habs have taken points out of 10 of their last 12 games (7-2-3).
But the scoring in more than one corner of their lineup has dried up: Max Domi, for one, began the season with three goals in five games, but has scored just once in the last 17; Coach Claude Julien tried to kickstart him by shifting him onto the wing but has scrapped the experiment, and Domi will return to the middle against the Rangers.
The Canadiens also will miss the scoring of Jonathan Drouin well into the New Year - injured eight days ago in a win over Washington, Drouin had surgery on his left wrist on Monday and is expected to be sidelined eight weeks. He had seven goals and 15 points in 19 games when he went out. Paul Byron injured his knee in the same game and was due to miss four to six weeks following surgery.
Carey Price has started 18 of the Canadiens' 22 games, and won 10 of them, but lost on back-to-back nights Tuesday (in Columbus) and Wednesday (vs. Ottawa). Shea Weber went scoreless in both those games after a six-game point streak, though he totaled nearly 48 minutes on ice in the back-to-back set.
Saturday's game is sure to draw the eyes of night owls in Finland as the first NHL matchup between two of that country's best teenagers, the Rangers' 18-year-old rookie Kaapo Kakko against Montreal's 19-year-old Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Kakko has seven points in his last seven games while Kotkaniemi has struggled to just three points so far, after 34 points in 79 games as an 18-year-old a season ago.
10 Panarin - 16 Strome - 17 Fast
20 Kreider - 72 Chytil - 89 Buchnevich
48 Lemieux - 21 Howden - 24 Kakko
26 Gettinger - 14 McKegg - 42 Smith
25 Hajek - 8 Trouba
76 Skjei - 77 DeAngelo
55 Lindgren - 23 Fox
90 Tatar - 24 Danault - 11 Gallagher
62 Lehkonen - 13 Domi - 14 Suzuki
54 Hudon - 15 Kotkaniemi - 40 Armia
21 Cousins - 44 Thompson - 43 Weal
8 Chiarot - 6 Weber
53 Mete - 26 Petry
28 Reilly - 32 Folin
Nine of the last 20 meetings between the Rangers and Habs have resulted in one team shutting out the other. Neither team has been shut out this season.
The Blueshirts are 1-1 in the second game of a back-to-back this season.
Jacob Trouba's goal on Friday in Ottawa was the 16th this season by a Rangers defensemen, second-most in the NHL.
Tim Gettinger's assist on Trouba's goal was his first NHL point. He is the 22nd Ranger to collect a point this season - eight of those players are age 21 or younger.
Eight of the Canadiens' 22 games have reached overtime, including four of their last seven. They are 3-5 in OTs/shootouts.
Phillip Danault has points in five straight games (1-6--7).
Since the start of last season, Carey Price more games (84) and minutes (4,965) than any goaltender in the NHL.
Montreal has scored 52 goals at 5-on-5, tied for third-most in the League.
The Canadiens have been the League's least-efficient penalty-killers on home ice, at 71 percent.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Pavel Buchnevich will play his 200th NHL game Saturday night, all as a Ranger, with 118 points over his first 199. Nine of those points - a goal and eight assists - have come in the last eight games.
Nick Suzuki scored the Canadiens' goal against Ottawa, his third goal in four games and the sixth of his rookie season. The 20-year-old was acquired, along with current Montreal leading scorer Tomas Tatar, in the September 2018 deal that sent Max Pacioretty to Vegas.