The New York Rangers enter tonight's game against the Montreal Canadiens -- the first between the two this season -- having won their last two games against the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks, and with a 5-3-3 record on the year. The Canadiens, on the other hand, have won their last four games after struggling early, and are 5-5-2 in their first twelve games. Both clubs have just recently begun to find their games and play how they intended to going into the season, so neither will want to forfeit their streaks with a loss tonight.
Focusing on the Habs, they started the season 1-5-2 and fell into an early hole that looked as if it were going to handicap them early on. However, having won their past four games, Montreal has leveled things out at .500, which most recently featured a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators on Friday night. Goaltender Carey Price has played a major role in the team's success, only allowing five total goals during their win streak.
For the Rangers, they first showed signs of reviving their game last Saturday when they went up 4-1 against the Ottawa Senators, but then collapsed and ended up losing 5-4 in a shootout. Although they choked on a three-goal margin, they clicked offensively and since then they've played sound hockey in all areas of the ice. In a way, you could look at that game against the Sens as a turning point for the Blueshirts.
I think head coach John Tortorella deserves some credit here as well, because a big part of the Rangers suddenly excelling has been the line of Brandon Dubinsky, Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan - a trio put together by the coach. All three have played their best hockey since that move was made, and their efforts have certainly been something for the club to build on in their last two or three games.
The lineup will be taking on a bit of a different look this evening, however, as both Wojtek Wolski (groin) and Mike Rupp (knee) will be out of the lineup for the Rangers. With that, in comes forward Sean Avery, who was recalled by the team on Tuesday after clearing re-entry waivers. This will be Avery's first game in the NHL this season being that he spent the first month in the AHL with the Connecticut Whale.
More on Avery and his return here.
Tortorella has not specified lines for tonight's game, but it is widely suspected that Avery will be on the fourth line with Erik Christensen and Andre Deveaux. Now before you start complaining, remember, this is not conciliation between Avery and Tortorella. Avery is here to fill a spot, and that spot happens to be on the fourth line, so that's where he will play. Until he proves he deserves more, he shouldn't be playing anywhere else in the lineup.
Henrik Lundqvist will be in goal for the Rangers, and in case you were wondering, Scott Gomez will not be available to boo tonight as he is out indefinitely with an upper body injury. You think the Habs regret that trade, yet?
New York Rangers Lineup
NOTE: The Rangers will be wearing their heritage jerseys tonight for the first time this season.