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Rangers at Canadiens Game 1 Preview

Original Six Rivals Do Battle in Playoffs for 16th Time

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia / NYRangers.com

MONTREAL -- For the second time in four seasons, Original Six foes the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens will meet in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, beginning Wednesday night at the Bell Centre.

The Rangers finished the regular season with 102 points, good enough for the top wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Canadiens, meanwhile, finished a point ahead with 103 points to capture the Atlantic Division crown and thus give the Habs home ice advantage over the Blueshirts.

The season series went Montreal's way, as the Rangers went 0-2-1 in the three games. Rick Nash led the way offensively for the Blueshirts with two goals in the three contests. Henrik Lundqvist started two of the three games, and relieved Antti Raanta in the third.

New York enters the playoffs as healthy as it could be. Coach Alain Vigneault allowed several key players, including Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello and Nash, to heal up any "bumps and bruises" that may have been plaguing them down the stretch, and thus every player on the active roster is available for Game 1.

Those bodies give Vigneault options both up front and on the back end, and it's left him with decisions to make heading into Game 1. While he would not commit to his lines Tuesday, it appeared Tanner Glass would skate on the team's fourth line with Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fast.

On defense, Vigneault did confirm veteran Kevin Klein would not play, though he is available if or when he's needed.

Raanta missed his final start of the season on Sunday with a knee injury, but he too is ready to start the series.

Montreal head coach Claude Julien deployed the same tactics as his old teammate Vigneault, and rested star defenseman Shea Weber during the season's final week, and it paid off as the blueliner will play in Game 1.

The Habs had a scare on Tuesday, with captain and leading scorer Max Pacioretty taking a stick to the face, forcing him to leave practice, though the team said he'll play on Wednesday.

The key obstacle for the Rangers is figuring out a way to solve goaltender Carey Price, who has had success against New York throughout his career. The 29-year-old is 15-5-1 with seven shutouts lifetime against the Rangers.

Montreal's offensive production resembled that of the Rangers. While New York outscored the Canadiens 256-226, it was scoring by committee for Montreal. Pacioretty led the team with 67 points, followed by Alexander Radulov's 54 in 76 contests. Alex Galchenyuk had 44 and Paul Byron had 43.

This year's meeting will be the 16th all-time between the Rangers and Canadiens, with the Rangers taking eight to Montreal's seven victories. New York has faced Montreal in the postseason more than any other team in franchise history.

Recent playoff history is on the Rangers' side, as they disposed of the Canadiens in six games in 2014 to advance to its first Stanley Cup Final in 20 years. Lundqvist won all four games in that series that included a shutout, while McDonagh had two goals and eight assists in the six games.

Newcomer Mika Zibanejad has faced Montreal more than any other Ranger, with 11 of his 16 career playoff games coming against the Habs when he was a member of the Ottawa Senators. He has eight points in those games.

Visit NYRangers.com and follow the Rangers on Twitter @NYRangers throughout the series for updates from practice, pre and postgame video coverage and behind-the-scenes photos and clips.

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