Montreal Canadiens

Goalie Nods: Rangers’ Skapski gets second NHL start

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Skapski starts vs. Sabres

Mackenzie Skapski will make his second career NHL start tonight as the New York Rangers visit the Buffalo Sabres. The 20-year-old got his first NHL win with a 24 save performance defeating the Sabres 3-1 on Feb. 20. Skapski was 12-7-3 to go along with a .914 save percentage and a 2.38 in 24 AHL games prior to being recalled.

Anders Lindback gets the nod for Buffalo.

Elsewhere…

Blackhawks at Sharks: Corey Crawford vs. Antti Niemi

Leafs at Canucks: Jonathan Bernier vs. Eddie Lack

Panthers at Hurricanes: Dan Ellis vs. Cam Ward

Canadiens at Islanders: Carey Price vs. Michal Neuvirth

Jets at Lightning: Ondrej Pavelec vs. Andrei Vasilevskiy

Wild at Blues: Devan Dubnyk vs. Brian Elliott

Devils at Coyotes:Cory Schneider vs. Mike Smith

Flames at Avalanche: Karri Ramo vs. Semyon Varlamov

Predators at Kings: Pekka Rinne vs. Jonathan Quick

NHL on NBCSN: Habs and Islanders battle for top spot in their respective divisions

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the New York Islanders host the Montreal Canadiens at Nassau Coliseum at 7:00 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

Crucial points are up for grabs tonight as the Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders vie for top spot in their respective divisions.

The Habs (42-19-7) are tied in points (91) with the Tampa Bay Lightning (42-20-7) atop the Atlantic Division with a game in hand. Meanwhile the Islanders (42-17-7) trail the Rangers (43-23-4) by one point for top spot in the Metropolitan Division.

Both teams enter Saturday’s meeting looking to avoid a third straight loss.

For the Canadiens, they’re looking to avoid a third straight loss this month. The Islanders have dropped back-to-back games and have just one win in their last four. New York has also lost three straight on home ice.

Since opening the season 17-4-0 at Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders are 6-7-0.

Montreal has won both meetings this season and five of the past six. Habs’ starter Carey Price, who is a front-runner for the Vezina Trophy, is 4-1-0 with a 1.40 GAA and a shutout in his last five starts against New York. He also has a .965 save percentage during three straight wins at Nassau Coliseum.

Islanders’ captain John Tavares, who has a one point lead on Alex Ovechkin in the Art Ross race entering Saturday’s play, has been held off the score sheet in two straight games matching his longest drought of the season. He has 10 points in his last seven games against the Canadiens.

Kyle Okposo, who will play in his third game since returning from an eye injury, has two goals and an assist against the Habs this season.

Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov has a goal and three assists in two meetings between the two clubs while forward Tomas Plekanec has two goals and two assists.

Tonight is the third and final game between the two teams this season and Montreal’s final regular season visit to Nassau Coliseum.

Red Hot Sens continue to defy odds by beating Habs

The Ottawa Senators chances of making the playoffs are slim, but it’s hard to rule them out entirely after they just recorded their ninth victory in 11 contests. Ottawa stayed sharp tonight with a 5-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens.

Max Pacioretty got Montreal off to a great start by finding the back of the net in power-play and shorthanded situations. However, rookie goaltender Andrew Hammond wouldn’t allow Montreal to beat him again. This was his 10th career game and he has never allowed more than two goals in a contest. With a 1.49 GAA and .952 save percentage, he’s the single biggest reason why Ottawa has been so effective lately. His strong start tonight has also made the goaltending situation in Ottawa more interesting as starter Craig Anderson is now healthy.

Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson also had a big game with two goals and an assist. That gives him 18 goals and 53 points in 66 contests, which is enough to lead all defensemen in the scoring race.

Under normal circumstances this might have been a night to forget for Sergei Gonchar, given that his Canadiens lost the game and he finished with a minus-two rating in 13:26 minutes of ice time. However, he became just the 57th player in NHL history to reach the 1,300-game milestone tonight.

Even after wining nine of its last 11 games, Ottawa is still seven points behind Boston in the battle for the second Wild Card spot, so the Senators will have to stay hot just to keep their hopes alive. By contrast Montreal is leading the Atlantic Division, although it has dropped five of its last six games.

Goalie nods: Sens go back to the Hamburglar

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All the latest from the blue paint…

Anderson sits, Hammond starts

After saying Craig Anderson gave his team the best chance to win prior to Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to Boston, Ottawa head coach Dave Cameron flipped the script by announcing Andrew Hammond, not Anderson, would get the start for tonight’s tilt against Montreal.

Hammond — aka “The Hamburglar” — returns to the net after a two-game hiatus, looking to build on his eye-popping numbers: 7-0-1 record, .954 save percentage, 1.43 GAA and two shutouts in nine appearances. His return also comes at a crucial time for Ottawa, as the Sens blew a golden opportunity on Tuesday to close the gap on Boston’s lead in the Eastern Conference playoff chase; they head into tonight’s action seven points back of the B’s, albeit with a game in hand.

For Montreal, Carey Price will get the start in goal.

Elsewhere…

Bolts at Bruins: Ben Bishop vs. Tuukka Rask (probable)

Oilers at Pens: Ben Scrivens vs. Marc-Andre Fleury

Stars at ‘Canes: Kari Lehtonen vs. Anton Khudobin

Jets at Panthers: Michael Hutchinson vs. Dan Ellis

Jackets at Wings: Sergei Bobrovsky vs. Jimmy Howard

Flyers at Blues: Steve Mason vs. Brian Elliott

Devils at Avs: Cory Schneider vs. Semyon Varlamov (probable)

Kings at Canucks: No confirmed starters for either team.

Blackhawks at Coyotes: Corey Crawford vs. Mike Smith

Preds at Sharks: (No starter for Nashville yet) vs. Antti Niemi

Columbus’ Murray off IR, set to play just eighth game this season (Updated)

In mid-February, Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen nixed the idea of shutting down d-man Ryan Murray, even though Murray’s missed nearly the entire campaign with knee and ankle injuries.

Today, Kekalainen stayed true to his word.

The Jackets have activated Murray off injured reserve, which means the 21-year-old is likely to play against Detroit tonight, in what would be his first game since Feb. 6.

UPDATE: Murray’s return sounds like it’ll happen on Friday against the Oilers at Nationwide, per head coach Todd Richards.

To call Murray’s year frustrating would be an understatement. His campaign has been a series of starts and stops with frequent injury interruptions, limiting him to just seven appearances — three in October, one in November, one in January and two in February. All told, he’s only appeared in 73 career games since being taken second overall at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft; the guy taken one spot after him, Montreal’s Alex Galchenyuk, has played 178.

This is why Kekalainen wanted to get Murray back into the lineup this season, even though the Jackets are out of playoff contention and have little to play for. The GM recently expressed concern about just how much time his prized youngster has missed, and what it’s done to his progression.

“I’m worried about Murray in particular. Two out of three seasons, he really hasn’t played,” Kekalainen explained, per the Columbus Dispatch. “That’s all development time.

“I think as soon as he gets healthy he’s got to get back to playing.”