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Rangers take on the Montreal Canadiens with Raanta in net

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers vs canadiens faceoff 10-15

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

After securing two solid home-ice wins this week, the Rangers (42-24-8) are back on the road for one game, taking on the Montreal Canadiens (34-35-6) at the Bell Centre, one of the toughest stadiums to play in the NHL.

Most years, this would be a battle between two playoff teams. But the Canadiens have had to deal with injuries, a falling out between players and coaches and lackluster play, putting them in the midst of one of their worst seasons in recent history. Carey Price hasn’t played since November and that definitely hurt the Canadiens, but that injury shouldn’t affect the play of everyone else.

The Rangers are in a much better position than Montreal, winning their last two games and having the Penguins and Islanders lose on their off-days. Both teams have a single game in hand, and the Penguins and Islanders are four and five points behind the Rangers, respectively. With just eight games to go for the Blueshirts, every point is important.

This is also the first game of a back-to-back, as they will play tomorrow night against the Penguins. Getting three or four points here would provide a nice cushion in the conference and some confidence moving forward.

This is a game where the Rangers should try and make a statement with a win. The Canadiens have always been tough opponents for Vigneault’s squad, but this is not a game you can lose. Even with Raanta in net, this is a game where you need to control play, control possession, dictate the game and come away with a relatively easy win. They’ve had some problems in their past two wins, especially with possession, so correcting that is important.

This is the third and final meeting between the Rangers and Canadiens this season with New York looking to avoid being swept in the season series. The Canadiens have outscored the Rangers 8-1 in the two prior games, and haven’t scored at even strength. They’ve lost nine of the last 11 games against Montreal and have been shut out in six of them, scoring just nine goals in the last 11 games. Rick Nash has the only goal against the Habs this year.

Mike Condon will be in net for the Canadiens tonight, with the rookie making his 50th appearance of the season. So far, he is 18-22-6 with a .905 save percentage and a 2.65 GAA. Condon is coming off a win but has allowed three or more goals in each of his last four starts, and six of his last eight starts.

Max Pacioretty continues to be a solid offensive player while the production of many of his teammates drops off. He’s not going to come close to the 37 goals he scored last year, but a 25 goal, 55 point season on a pretty bad Montreal team is a solid year. He’ll get a lot of ice time and he’s leaned on to provide scoring, so watch out for him.

Andrei Markov has had to shoulder the workload with PK Subban sidelined, and he continues to fly under the radar despite being an excellent two-way defenseman. Markov has 40 points (5-35-40) for the third straight season, and he’s tied for third on the team in assists. Four of his goals and 11 of his assists have come on the power play, making him a threat in many different situations.

For the Rangers, Antti Raanta will be between the pipes, with Henrik Lundqvist starting tomorrow night against the Penguins. Raanta has won four of his last five starts since his meltdown against the LA Kings on February 12, and he’s allowed two goals or less in each of the wins. Raanta is 9-5-2 with a .916 save percentage and a 2.34 GAA.

Keith Yandle is not a mortal man. Go watch the highlights from the game against Boston, where he picked up two assists and skated for 22 minutes. Both of his assists came on fantastic plays and amazing passes, the first to Mats Zuccarello and the second to Derek Stepan. Both came on the power play as well, giving him 19 PPP (2-17-19) this season. Since Vigneault has handed Yandle the keys to the power play and let him man the point on the first unit, the Rangers power play has been the best in the league since February 12 (14 goals in 20 games, 28%). Look out for him tonight.

With a goal on Wednesday, JT Miller reached the 20 goal plateau for the first time in his NHL career, and he continues to show that he’s capable of handling a top-six role. Miller said 20 goals was a goal of his, which speaks volumes of his confidence in himself after some tough times staying in the lineup last season. But now he’s third on the team in scoring with 40 points, 17 more than he tallied last season. He has six points (3-3-6) in the last eight games and will skate with Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello.

No lineup changes today. Oscar Lindberg will remain a healthy scratch and the lines will likely look the same.

The Rangers and Canadiens will face off at 7 PM at the Bell Centre. The game will be broadcasted on MSG 2.

EXPECTED LINEUP

Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-Jesper Fast

JT Miller-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider-Eric Staal-Kevin Hayes

Tanner Glass-Dominic Moore-Viktor Stalberg

Ryan McDonagh-Kevin Klein

Keith Yandle-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Dan Boyle

Henrik Lundqvist

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Posted on March 26, 2016, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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