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Preview – Montreal (24-23-5) vs. New York Rangers (24-20-7) – January 23rd 2010

After a convincing effort against the Devils on Friday night, the Canadiens look to win consecutive games for the first time this month against the Rangers. Vengeance will also likely be on the minds of the Habs’ players, who got walloped 6-2 by the same Rangers a week ago. Of course, most importantly, this game has important playoff implications, as both teams are separated by only two points.

While the Rangers have won only two of their past 6 games, their wins have been most convincing. After hammering Montreal last Sunday, they proceeded to humiliate Tampa Bay, winning 8-2. Nevertheless, the Blueshirts remain but a mediocre offensive team, ranking 19th in goals per game and having very little secondary scoring. Marian Gaborik leads the team with 61 points, but afterwards the drop is considerable. Vinny Prospal is second in team scoring with 36 points and Brandon Dubinsky follows with 27 points. In short, should the Habs manage to contain Gaborik, which is no easy feat, they will give themselves a good chance to win the game. However, with Henrik Lundqvist in net, they do not need to score profusely to win. The Swedish Olympian owns impressive numbers, going 22-16-6 with a .925 save percentage and a 2.15 goals against average.

As for Montreal, Jaroslav Halak will get his second start in as many nights. He was sensational against the Devils, stopping 31 of 32 shots. Paul Mara is out with an upper-body injury and Ryan O’Byrne will take his place. Meanwhile, Sergei Kostitsyn might make a return tonight and will hopefully spark some secondary scoring. Luckily, in spite of the lack of scoring depth, Benoit Pouliot has been leading the way offensively, with 8 goals in his past 10 contests.

Puck drops at 7:00 pm and the game will air on RDS, CBC and NHL Network US.