Newly renovated Madison Square Garden is the setting for tonight’s game between the Canadiens and Rangers. It is the first of four meetings Montreal will have with the ‘blueshirts’ this season. Both teams had poor starts to the season but slowly appear to be tuning things around. The Rangers lost 4 of their first 6 games and 6 of their first 9 but did have a hellish road trip to begin the year which started in Europe, moved to Western Canada and culminated in Winnipeg. In total the team travelled over 16,000 miles or almost 26,000 kilometres. Montreal started the year with just a single win in their first 7 but did not have that extensive travel to blame.
New York as it has done before won the prize possession of the offseason free agent frenzy when they signed former Conn Smythe trophy winner Brad Richards. Part of the reason he chose New York was surely the fact that John Tortorella would once again be his head coach. Richards oddly enough has yet to score in a Rangers win, all of his 3 goals have come in losses.
The big player story, however, will be that of the return of Sean Avery, barely a mere week after the MSG crowd chanted during a home loss, “WE WANT AVERY.” Fast forward to tonight and they will get what they wished for. Avery who has fallen out of favour with NHL teams before must be inching closer to burning his final bridge. With him clearing waivers both on the way down to the AHL and back up a couple days ago you would have to think he should not buy any green bananas.
Montreal has won 4 games in a row, with their most recent win coming last night in Ottawa. Erik Cole and Andrei Kostitsyn scored goals exactly 3 minutes apart in the 2nd period, and thanks to some superb play from Carey Price and willing shot blocking from the Canadiens defenceman they managed to hold on for a 2-1 victory.
HW’s Victory Keys
Shutdown Gaborik and Richards: Obviously these two superstars have the ability to score in bunches on their own, together they are a very formidable duo and it will be a total team effort to stop them as Jacques Martin will not have last change and both Gaborik and Richards play about 20 minutes per game.
Shoot high glove: Henrik Lundqvist is one of the best goalies in the league but Montreal has had plenty of success against him averaging almost 3 goals per game against him, lots of those goals going glove side.
Score the first goal: The Rangers have yet to win a game this year when they are scored on first.
1. Brad Richards has 7 goals and 11 assists and is a -8 in 30 career games against the Habs.
2. Mike Cammalleri has 6 goals and 6 assists in 9 career games against the Rangers.
3. It is a rare occasion for the Canadiens to play at MSG on a Saturday night, it has only happened 10 times. In comparison, 215 Saturday games have been played between these two teams in Montreal.