The Rangers continue their final three-game homestand of the season tonight when they faceoff against the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m.), in an Original Six matchup. The Blueshirts currently rank fourth in the Atlantic Division standings, and ninth in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 31-29-9 (71 pts.). The Rangers enter tonight’s contest having defeated the Philadelphia Flyers, 3-1, on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. New York has now registered a point in seven of their last nine contests, posting a record of 5-2-2 (12 pts.) over the span, including a 2-0-2 mark in their last four games at MSG. The Canadiens enter the contest with a 35-29-6 (76 pts.) record to rank seventh in the Eastern Conference. Following tonight’s contest, the Rangers conclude their three-game homestand on Thursday, Mar. 18, when they will face-off against the St. Louis Blues at Madison Square Garden (7:00 p.m.), in their final meeting with a Western Conference opponent on the 2009-10 regular season schedule.
With the win on Sunday over Philadelphia, the Rangers are five points back of the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference, held by both Philadelphia and Montreal (76 pts. each), and just one point back of Boston (72 pts.) in the eighth spot. With a Boston loss tonight (they play in Carolina against a red-hot Hurricanes team) and a Rangers win in regulation, the Blueshirts would slide back into the playoff picture. The Candiens however, will make a Rangers win difficult to come by. “Les Habitants” have won five straight, and seven in their last ten.
Every game now is a playoff game for the Rangers. The Rangers seem to be coming together and playing like a team down the stretch, making a serious push for the last three playoff spots in the East. The stars may be aligning at just the right time, but the next two games will be a real test for this club. “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.”
“We have been in the same position before,” goalie Henrik 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.”
Lundqvist is 6-1-0 with a 1.86 GAA, and one shutout, in his last seven home starts versus Montreal. He has been terrific all season, and even better as of late. Although the Rangers have played extremely inconsistent from game-to-game almost all season long, they realize what’s at stake here. With just 13 games left, and 8 on the road, the Blueshirts know that each game gets more and more important if they want to play playoff hockey. They are prepared; they are focused; the playoff push continues tonight.
Rangers win, 3-1
Shot Calling – goal tonight for Marian Gaborik