NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, February 5th (All times eastern)
New York Rangers (29-21-4) at Montreal Canadiens (29-18-5), 2 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The New York Rangers will try to avoid a fourth straight loss this afternoon, when they visit the Montreal Canadiens for an Original Six clash at the Bell Centre.
The Rangers have matched their worst skid of the season by going 0-2-1 in their last three outings and New York hasn't lost four in a row since an 0-2-2 stretch from March 4-10 of last season.
Montreal, meanwhile, has won two straight and has suffered just one regulation loss over its last eight games (5-1-2).
The Canadiens and Rangers will battle for playoff positioning today, as the clubs are separated by just one point in the Eastern Conference standings. Montreal is sixth in the East with 63 points and the Blueshirts are one back in seventh. The Habs are also just four points behind Boston for the Northeast Division lead.
Montreal has recorded a pair of one-goal regulation wins over the Rangers this season and has taken four straight and five of six overall in the series. New York has dropped three in a row and five of its last six games at the Bell Centre.
The Rangers were dealt a close regulation loss in their last game, dropping Thursday's 3-2 decision to the visiting New Jersey Devils. New York fell behind 3-0 and was never able to draw even with the suddenly-hot Devils.
Vinny Prospal scored in his first action of the season for the Rangers. Prospal had right knee surgery in the offseason and missed the first 53 games.
Ryan Callahan scored the other goal for New York while Henrik Lundqvist yielded three goals on 12 shots before he was pulled from the net. Marty Biron stopped all six shots he faced in relief.
"In the end, I have to be better and more focused," Lundqvist told his team's website. "I'm upset for not playing better. We created chances and played hard, but it was a tough night for me."
Rangers head coach John Tortorella has not revealed if Lundqvist or the backup Biron will get the start this afternoon.
Today's contest marks the start of a three-game road trip for the Rangers, who will also be making stops in Detroit and Atlanta. New York has won its last two on the road and has a strong 17-9-1 record as the guest this season.
Montreal had lost its last two games before the All-Star break, but has notched two straight victories since the league resumed play earlier this week. The Habs' latest win came Wednesday against the visiting Florida Panthers, as Brian Gionta posted the eventual game-winning goal in the third period to help lift the Habs to the 3-2 victory.
Jeff Halpern and Tomas Plekanec also scored for the Canadiens, who were coming off a shootout win at Washington on Tuesday.
Alex Auld made 33 saves to post his first win since January 11.
"I knew I had to have a better outing than my last start here," Auld said about being pulled after letting a 4-0 lead to Calgary slip away. "I was focused and looking forward to tonight. It was a lot of fun, the guys played great. It was a good team win."
Auld may get another start this weekend as Montreal could choose not to use No. 1 netminder Carey Price on consecutive days. The Canadiens, who will also be in action Sunday when they host New Jersey in the finale of a three-game homestand, are expected to go with Price today.
Montreal is 17-6-4 on home ice this season and has won five of its last seven at Bell Centre.
02/05 11:10:46 ET