Rangers opening playoffs with road test in Montreal
NEW YORK (AP) The New York Rangers don’t mind starting the Stanley Cup playoffs on the road.
After all, they led the NHL with 27 road wins in the regular season.
And the Rangers had 21 wins at Madison Square Garden this season, tied for the fewest home wins among the 16 teams that reached the postseason.
So playing the opening two games of their series at the Bell Centre in Montreal is not a big problem.
”Starting on the road here will give us a good chance to establish our playoff game,” Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi said. ”Hopefully we’ll have good Games 1 and 2 and that’ll carry over to our barn for 3 and 4. I just think we’re worried about Game 1 and play that way throughout the whole playoffs.”
The teams last met in the playoffs in the 2014 Eastern Conference Final, best remembered for when Rangers forward Chris Kreider slid into Montreal goalie Carey Price and knocked him out for the series. The Rangers won the series in six games before losing to the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final.
”My game hasn’t changed,” Kreider said. ”For me to be effective, I need to go get to the crease. That’s where I’m going to score goals.”
Kreider, who led the Rangers with 28 goals in the regular season, expects to hear from the Canadiens fans.
”That’s one thing in particular that I remember is that rink being energetic and really emotional,” he said. ”They’ve got an incredibly passionate fan base so it’s a fun place to play.”
Here are some other things to look for in the matchup between Original Six franchises beginning with Game 1 on Wednesday night:
The Canadiens swept all three meetings in the regular season. Price had a 2.27 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage in those matchups and is 15-5-1 with a 1.82 GAA and .940 save percentage in his career against the Rangers.
”They’ve had some success against us the last couple of years, but I think our focus is definitely what we did a couple of years ago in the playoffs,” Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said.
”They’re a great team. They have a lot of speed, good structure, a great goaltender, so it’s a going to be a good test and a great challenge for us.”
Going into the playoffs, Lundqvist leads all active NHL goaltenders in playoff appearances (116) and playoff wins (55), and he is tied for first among active goaltenders in playoff shutouts (nine).
Max Pacioretty, who led the Canadiens with 35 goals in the regular season, left practice Tuesday after getting hit by a stick. Coach Claude Julien said Pacioretty is expected to play. Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin will miss Game 1 with an injury. Shea Weber and Jordie Benn are expected to play.
The Canadiens fired coach Michel Therrien during the season and brought back Julien for his second stint with Montreal. The Canadiens went 16-7-1 under Julien and won the Atlantic Division after missing the playoffs in 2015-16.
”Every year it’s tough to make the playoffs so when you have that opportunity, you want to take advantage of it,” Julien said.
”You want to stay even-keel. You want to get ready to play. We play tomorrow and we’ll deal with the next day afterward.”
The Rangers finished the regular season 8-9-4 but welcome the chance of a fresh start. They have reached the playoffs for the seventh straight season.
”Everybody has a clean slate and a great opportunity in front of them to make a difference and an impact in the playoffs,” coach Alain Vigneault said.
”This is what we worked for the whole season and what every player and coach works for, to get an opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup. We’re one of the 16 teams that have that opportunity.”
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