Price downplays start as Canadiens host Rangers

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One can only wonder ‘what if’ as the Montreal Canadiens get set to host the New York Rangers at the Bell Centre Saturday night.

The Rangers and Canadiens of course met in last spring’s Eastern Conference final, which saw Carey Price go down with a knee injury during Game 1 after Rangers forward Chris Kreider ran into the Habs’ starter.

New York defeated Montreal in six games to advance to the Stanley Cup final where they lost to the L.A. Kings.

“The fact we lost Carey Price was a huge loss for us, but we’re never going to know if it would have been different,” Canadiens coach Michel Therrien told NHL.com. “It’s easy to speculate about the result, but we’re never going to know. One thing we do know is [the Rangers are] a good hockey team, they work hard, they have a good structure and they’re tough to play against.

Price, who went 8-3 with a 2.15 GAA through the first two rounds of last spring’s playoffs prior to the meeting with the Rangers, is naturally downplaying the significance of tonight’s game.

“It’s not about focusing on individuals on a team, it’s about trying to win the game,” Price said. “That’s the only thing we have to focus on.

“They’re a good hockey club. There’s a reason they were in the Stanley Cup finals last year. They got great goaltending, and they play as a unit. It’s definitely going to be a good challenge for us.”

Forward Brendan Gallagher added tonight’s game won’t change what happened.

“We’re not going to be able to be back in that situation by winning this game,” he said. “I think it’s something that’s over with, we have to learn from it, be better for it this year, but we can’t be playing with vengeance in our minds.”

The Canadiens are off to a hot start at 6-1-0 and Price is in fine form at 5-1-0 with a 2.96 GAA.

The Rangers meanwhile have won three of four since an embarrassing 6-3 loss at home to the Toronto Maple Leafs Oct. 14.

Kreider, who will likely be booed relentlessly tonight by the Bell Centre crowd, had eight points in last spring’s eastern final and has started this season with two goals and six points through seven games.

“I would think now that the series has gone by, everyone is calmer and cooler,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said of the incident between Kreider and Price. “Everybody on both teams, and anybody watching, knows that was just a pure accident. It’s unfortunate it happened. I’m sure everyone knows it was a pure accident.”

Henrik Lundqvist (4-2-0) will get the start for New York.

Saturday concludes a two-game road trip for the Rangers while the Habs will head out on the road for a three-game western road trip beginning Monday.

Signs point to Datsyuk’s return Tuesday in Montreal

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From Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press:

Datsyuk says he’ll know tomorrow after the morning skate if he’ll play Tuesday evening in Montreal.

If he does return from his separated shoulder against the Canadiens, it’ll be right around the time he was originally scheduled to be ready (4-5 weeks, from Sep. 24).

The Red Wings (3-1-1) have done just fine without their star forward. They’re coming off back-to-back wins over Toronto on Friday and Saturday, while their only regulation loss was a close 3-2 decision versus Anaheim.

Franzen sat out Saturday’s game with a lower-body injury.

Bruins goalie Rask gets the hook in Montreal

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Tuukka Rask was pulled in the third period of Thursday’s game between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens, a rematch of last spring’s hotly contested Eastern Conference semifinal series and the league’s greatest rivalry.

Rask gave up five goals on 23 shots when he got the hook. The Habs trailed the Bruins in the second period, but scored three straight goals, including Brendan Gallagher’s deflection goal in the third, to take a 5-3 lead when Rask was taken out of the game.

Niklas Svedberg came into the game for Boston.

Lightning will test their might against Canadiens

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After making some shrewd offseason moves, the Tampa Bay Lightning came into this fresh season as a chic pick to make a deep playoff run. That said, the Montreal Canadiens – aka the team that swept them from the 2014 playoffs – might have something to say about that.

With the two teams set to meet for the first time in 2014-15 on Monday, the Lightning seem more interested in testing their progress than getting “revenge” for that lopsided series, as the Tampa Bay Times reports.

“It’s probably going to be a good gauge for us,” Head coach Jon Cooper said. “Clearly, they’re setting the bar in the Eastern Conference. They’re kind of the team to beat right now, so I guess we’ll see where we’re at.”

It could be a nice test for two teams who haven’t provided themselves with large margins of error so far. Montreal trailed in all three of its wins so far and took two victories via shootout (including erasing a three-goal deficit against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday) while the Lightning went to overtime in both of their contests, winning one and dropping the other.

Tampa Bay will turn around and host a New Jersey Devils team that already scored 11 goals in its first two games – a torrid pace only matched by the Pittsburgh Penguins – so the Lightning could learn a lot about where they stand in the next 48 hours.

Fly away: Montreal erases 3-0 deficit, beats Philly in shootout

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The Philadelphia Flyers managed to score the first goal of the game for the first time this season. They even took a 3-0 lead into the third period. Those facts might only make their 4-3 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens sting that much more, though.

Wayne Simmonds continued his hot streak on Saturday, extending a 1-0 Flyers lead to 3-0, but Montreal managed to swing the game completely in the final frame. Whatever reason you attach to the letdown – maybe the Flyers “sat on the lead,” perhaps the Canadiens just turned things up a few notches – Philly finds itself 0-2-1, wasting a 35-save night by Ray Emery.

Andrei Markov (one goal, two assists) and Tomas Plekanec (one goal, one assist) were two of the biggest catalysts for the turnaround. After the Flyers generated a 27-18 shot advantage through the first two periods, the Habs fired 19 shots to just four for Philadelphia in that 180 of a third period.

“Natural Stat Trick” might provide the best chart-based evidence, if you’re into that kind of thing:

source:

That’s … drastic.

If that doesn’t bum Flyers fans enough, they might really struggle to put together wins for the remainder of this month:

Tuesday: vs. Anaheim
Oct. 18: at Dallas
Oct. 21: at Chicago
Oct. 22: at Pittsburgh
Oct. 25: vs. Detroit
Oct. 28: vs. Los Angeles
Oct. 30: at Tampa Bay

On the bright side, they do get a decent breather between Tuesday’s game against the Ducks and next Saturday’s trip to face the Stars. They’ll need all that time to gather themselves for some big challenges.

Here are some additional thoughts from CSNPhilly.com: