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Rangers Play Host to Canadiens at The Garden

Blueshirts go for sixth straight win at MSG

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

The New York Rangers go for their sixth straight win at home when they host the Montreal Canadiens Tuesday night at The Garden.

New York is coming off a 2-1 win Sunday afternoon against the Eastern Conference-leading Washington Capitals. Ryan McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello each scored while Henrik Lundqvist made 31 saves for his 27th win of the season.

The Rangers could be without forward Derek Stepan, who missed Monday's practice with a hip injury. Head coach Alain Vigneault said Stepan was "probable" for Tuesday's game against the Habs, though Vigneault would know more after Stepan takes part in the morning skate.

If he can't play, three of the Rangers' four lines are expected to change. On Monday, Vigneault moved J.T. Miller to Stepan's center spot between Rick Nash and Jimmy Vesey, while also promoting Jesper Fast to Miller's former line with Kevin Hayes and Michael Grabner. Brandon Pirri would enter the lineup and play alongside Oscar Lindberg and Pavel Buchnevich.

Tuesday marks the second of three meeting between the Rangers and Canadiens, and the first at Madison Square Garden.

Lundqvist is expected to get the start for the Rangers. He's allowed two goals or fewer in five of his last six appearances against Montreal at The Garden dating back to March 30, 2012.

The two squads met just over a month ago in Montreal, with the Canadiens taking it 5-4.

Since then, though, the Canadiens went 4-8-2 in their next 14 games, which resulted in head coach Michel Therrian being relieved of his position. Former Bruins head coach Claude Julien was hired during the team's bye week, and lost in his debut Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets.

"I know Claude real well," Vigneault said Monday. "I know his teams are going to be well-structured. He's gotten a couple practices. They're coming in. There should be a real sense of urgency on their part, so we're going to have to be definitely focused and ready to execute and compete real hard." 

Montreal finds itself in the thick of a playoff race in the Atlantic Division, with just two-point edge on Ottawa and four points up on Boston for the top spot.

Captain Max Pacioretty leads the team in goals with 28 and points with 51, while Russian Alexander Radulov is enjoying a strong first season back in the NHL after spending time in the KHL. He has a team-high 28 assists and is second with 42 points in 57 games.

Defenseman Shea Weber hasn't missed a beat in moving from Nashville to Montreal last summer, and has 13 goals and 32 points during his first season with the Habs.

Goaltender Carey Price has struggled over the last several weeks, with just three wins in his last 12 games since beating the Rangers on Jan. 14. He's 24-15-5 with a 2.45 GAA and a .918 SV% with two shutouts this season.

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