Rangers Need to Keep It Going Against Habs

After their four point weekend that left them one point out of playoff position, the Rangers have every reason to feel pretty good about themselves which is what scares me. There's no time for this team to sit back on their laurels. A win tonight (in regulation) combined with a Boston loss to a red hot Carolina team (Hurricanes are 7-2-1 in their last ten) would catapult the Blueshirts back into the playoff picture, a point behind Montreal for seventh place with a game at hand.

It won't be easy for the Rangers, they are facing a red hot Canadiens team as well. The Habs have won five in a row, and seven of their last ten. The Blueshirts will need an effort more like what they put forward against the Flyers, and less like the one Friday night against Atlanta.

At this point the other thing the Rangers have going for them is that with the exception of the aforementioned Hurricanes, every team below them is slumping. Tampa, Atlanta, Florida and the Islanders are a combined 13-22-5 in their last ten games.

So the stars are pretty much aligned for the Rangers right now, they just need to play more like the team that beat Philly, and less like the team that beat Atlanta.

John Tortorella told the media yesterday that Henrik Lundqvist will be rested down the stretch, but when? How? Unless the Rangers solidify a playoff position before the end of the season, I just don't see how they will rest him. Every game is now a playoff game, and I just don't see them starting Alex Auld when every two points is so critical.

More after the break.......

Preview (Courtesy of NHL.com)

70 GP 69
35 W 31
29 L 29
6 OT 9
76 P 71
0.543 P% 0.514
2.63 G/G 2.59
2.74 GA/G 2.68
23.5 PP% 18.8
83.1 PK% 83.6
28.2 S/G 29.7
32.4 SA/G 29.9
49.4 FO% 49.8

Season Series: This is the fourth and final meeting between these two Original Sixers, Montreal has won two out of three, including a 6-0 blasting of the Rangers on January 23rd.

Team Scope:

Canadiens: No Mike Cammalleri? No problem. Since the Habs lost their leading scorer during a 3-2 loss to Ottawa on Jan. 30, they've gone 10-4-0 to move into playoff contention. And even without Cammalleri, the Canadiens are scoring 3.3 goals per game, up nearly 0.8 on their season average before he was hurt.

It's resulted in a push up the Eastern ladder that has the Canadiens dreaming of the playoffs.

"Right now you feel like you're almost in the playoffs," defenseman Andrei Markov said. "You understand you have to play well every shift, every moment. You're nervous before the game, but if you win, it's a great feeling."

Rangers: After an embarrassing 6-3 loss to the Devils, the Rangers have strung together two impressive wins against the Thrashers and Flyers, two teams they are fighting for a playoff spot.

But the Rangers have shown signs of stringing together consistent play at times this season, only to fall into the bad habits that have plagued them. To make the playoffs, they will have to find a way to keep it together.

"These are desperate times for us," captain Chris Drury said. "Obviously every game is a big game and now we have to regroup and get ready for a real good Montreal team that is one of the hottest teams in the League."

Who's Hot:
Markov has been on fire since the restart of the season. He has 2 goals and 7 assists in the Canadiens' eight games since the end of the Olympics. … For the Rangers, Drury has 4 points in his last 2 games, all assists.

Injury Report:
Besides Cammalleri (knee), the Canadiens will also be without defensemen Marc-Andre Bergeron (left) and Paul Mara (upper body). Mara could return this week. … The Rangers report no major injuries.

Stat Pack:
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist is 6-1-0 with a 1.86 GAA and a shutout in his last seven home starts versus Montreal. … Meanwhile, Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak is 1-3-0 with a 4.11 GAA in four starts at Madison Square Garden. … A win tonight would give the Candiens their first six-game winning streak since an eight-game run from March 23-April 6, 2006.

Puck Drop:
"We have been in the same position before," Lundqvist said. "Like I said, don't look too far ahead. Don't start thinking we have to win 10 out of 13 or something; we just have to win the next game."

Should the Rangers rest Henrik Lundqvist down the stretch?