By Matt Beardmore
Montreal (41-27-10) at NY Rangers (40-30-9), 7 p.m. EDT
NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York Rangers will make the playoffs for
the fourth consecutive season if they win their final three
But the way they've struggled lately, the Rangers can't afford
to look ahead at a potential playoff berth. They're just going
to worry about their next game.
Tied for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern
Conference, New York looks to continue its recent dominance at
Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night when it hosts a Montreal
Canadiens club that also hopes to move closer to a postseason
The Rangers (40-30-9) open the final week of the regular season
with four losses in their last five games, but even with a
playoff berth still within their grasp, John Tortorella's club
knows it can only concentrate on Tuesday night's opponent.
"It's not rocket science here - it's not three games, it's one
game," said Tortorella, 9-7-2 since replacing the fired Tom
Renney. "Everybody knows where we're at, what the situation is,
we don't have to talk about that anymore. It's about finding a
way to win one hockey game."
If New York and Florida both win out, the Rangers would secure
the final playoff spot based on more victories. Montreal is
seventh in the East, three points ahead of both the Rangers and
After falling to top-seeded Boston 1-0 on Saturday in what could
be the Rangers' first-round matchup, New York returns to MSG for
its last two home games before the regular-season finale at
Philadelphia on Sunday.
The Rangers are 6-1-0 on home ice since a 2-1 loss to the
Panthers on Feb. 26.
"When the Garden is loud and it's rocking, it can really pump up
the team, but it also works the other way for us," New York
captain Chris Drury told the team's official Web site Monday.
"For the opponent, it makes it a really tough place to play."
It had been a tough place for the Canadiens before they snapped
a four-game slide there on Jan. 7 with a 6-3 victory.
Robert Lang recorded a hat trick and Roman Hamrlik had three
assists as Montreal won its first game visiting the Rangers
since a 4-1 victory on Oct. 31, 2005.
Lang is out indefinitely with a torn left Achilles' tendon
suffered in a 3-1 loss to the Bruins on Feb. 1.
Lately, the injury front doesn't look much better as leading
scorer Andrei Markov (knee) and fellow defenseman Mathieu
Schneider (shoulder) were hurt in Saturday's 6-2 win over
Toronto - the Canadiens' fifth victory in six games. Neither
will play Tuesday, according to Montreal coach Bob Gainey.
The Canadiens (41-28-10), who had won three straight, could have
moved past idle Pittsburgh for the sixth seed in the East, but
couldn't hold on to a 2-1 third-period lead, falling 3-2 to
Ottawa on Monday.
"We had the game in our control and we let it slip away but
there are three games left," Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges
Alex Kovalev looks to extend his point streak to eight on
Tuesday after scoring his 25th of the season Monday. Kovalev has
two goals and an assist this season against the Rangers, who
have won two of the three matchups.
Jaroslav Halak made 20 saves in Monday's loss. He stopped 39
shots in the Jan. 7 win.
Carey Price is 1-0-1 with a 2.41 GAA against the Rangers this
New York's Henrik Lundqvist, meanwhile, is 4-2-0 with a 2.17 GAA
in six career home starts against Montreal.