WADE BABINEAU EDITORIAL CARTOON: Saturday, March 28, 2020
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Here are five things you should know about the Canadiens-Rangers game at the Bell Centre on Thursday (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).
Reset or rebuild? That’s the question posed by this matchup. While the Canadiens have been in a reset mode for several seasons, they are about to miss the payoffs for the fourth time in five years. The Rangers announced a full rebuilding process two years ago and it appears they are headed in the right direction. They are four points behind Columbus in the race for a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and they have three games hand. The Rangers, who are the third-youngest team in the NHL (the Canadiens are 11th) arrive as the hottest team in the league. They are 8-2 in their last 10 games and have a four-game winning streak.
King Henrik loses his throne: Normally you would expect to see Henrik Lundqvist in goal for the Rangers, but the veteran with the US$8.5 million cap hit has dropped to No. 3 on the Rangers’ depth chart. Alexandar Georgiev is expected to start against Carey Price, whose record at the Bell Centre is a reflection of the team’s inconsistent play at home. Price has registered three of his four shutouts at home, but the 4-3 overtime loss to Vancouver Tuesday dropped his home record to 12-13-4 with a .902 save percentage. He is 14-9-2 on the road.
Byron gives Domi a boost: Max Domi’s numbers are off from last season, when he led the Canadiens in scoring, but he has been the offensive spark plug recently with two goals and four assists in the last five games. Domi’s surge coincides with the return of Paul Byron, who has two goals and two assists in four games since he missed more than three months with a knee injury. Domi and Jonathan Drouin had therapy days Wednesday. Drouin has no points and a minus-10 rating in eight games since returning from a wrist injury.
Medical updates: A broken foot has ended Victor Mete’s season and Xavier Ouellet (upper-body injury) is still out, which means Karl Alzner gets more chances to show he can still play in the NHL. He has averaged 15:40 in ice time over two games and is a solid plus-1. In a move that went unnoticed during the trade deadline Monday, he was sent back to Laval, on paper, so he would be eligible for the AHL playoffs. The Rangers’ hottest goaltender, Igor Shesterkin (9-1, .940 SP) is out with a broken rib suffered in a car accident. Pavel Buchnevich suffered a minor injury in the same accident.
Panarin pays dividends: Artemi Panarin hit the free-agent jackpot when he signed a seven-year deal with a cap hit of US$11.642 million. The 27-year-old Russian is earning his keep with 32 goals and 85 points, which puts him fourth in the NHL scoring race. The Rangers made another long-term commitment at the trade deadline Monday when they decided to keep power forward Chris Kreider, who is best-known in these parts for taking Carey Price out of the Eastern Conference final in 2014. He gets a seven-year deal with a cap hit of US$6.5 million. The 28-year-old has 24 goals and 58 points this season.
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