Though head coach Alain Vigneault was not on the ice at Rangers practice Friday morning---he was already in Montreal attending to personal matters---his fingerprints were all over several changes that will be made in his team's lineup when the Blueshirts face the Canadiens on Saturday night.
First and foremost, Cam Talbot will start in goal with Henrik Lundqvist then slated to start 24 hours later when the Rangers host the Los Angeles Kings Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. Also, veteran center Dominic Moore will return to the lineup after a seven-game injury absence, and Brandon Mashinter will be the team's healthy scratch at forward. Finally, Justin Falk will replace Michael Del Zotto on defense, likely to be paired with John Moore.
Talbot will be making his fifth start for the Rangers this season. The 26 year-old rookie has won his last three starts and is 3-1-0 with a 1.97 goals against average and .933 save percentage. In his last start on November 7th, Talbot backstopped a 4-2 victory in Columbus, and he has yet to allow more than two goals in any start this season.
"We are very happy and very confident when he is in the net," alternate captain Brad Richards said of Talbot on Friday. "He looks very calm in the net, makes his saves look real routine. When you seem that calmness, where he faces barrage of shots and stands in there like it's no big deal, it puts a calmness through the group, too."
Montreal has long been a difficult city for the Rangers to not only win in, but be competitive in. Last season the Rangers were shutout in each of their two games at the Bell Centre, and they are winless in their last eight visits to Montreal. The Rangers have scored just one goal in their last five games at the Bell Centre. Their last win in that building was in March of 2009.
"You just want to go in and think about getting the two points and not think about the past," Talbot said of the Rangers woes in Montreal. "We want to start a streak of our own. I don't know a whole lot of what has happened before, I wasn't a part of it. You can't really think about it or have it in the back of your mind because then you are behind the eight-ball right off the bat."
Moore has not played since suffering a strained oblique during the first period of the October 29th game against the Islanders. He confirmed on Friday that he'd be able to play Friday, as he suspected earlier in the week. During practice on Friday Moore centered a line with wingers Benoit Pouliot and J.T. Miller.
"It's a great atmosphere (in Montreal), regardless of whether they are cheering for you or not," offered Moore, who briefly played for the Canadiens in 2009-10. "It's one of the best buildings in the NHL, just like The Garden. Just a great atmosphere."
Since Vigneault was not present at practice, he could not explain his decision to replace Del Zotto with Falk. The former Minnesota Wild defenseman has not played since October 19th in New Jersey, and has appeared in only three games this season. Del Zotto is 1-3-4 in 16 games played so far.