Tonight the New York Rangers host the Montreal Canadiens in game four of the NHL Eastern Conference Finals. The Rangers lead the series 2-1 and the puck meets the ice at 8pm.
Tonight’s line-up will have a few changes based on the events in game three. Henrik Lundqvist remains in net for the Rangers. With a 1.99 goals against average and a .931 save percentage, Lundqvist has been the difference between wins and losses for the Rangers in this post season. Derek Stepan has finally gone home from the hospital after his jaw surgery. He is not expected to play tonight. Also out of the line-up is Daniel Carcillo, who has officially filed an appeal to his 10 game suspension. Derick Brassard is considered a “game time decision” with a very strong possibility of playing. Also making another appearance in the Rangers’ lineup is J.T. Miller. Just before game three, Miller was reassigned to the Hartford Wolfpack. With Brassard back in the line-up, the top producing line of the team is reunited and the hole at center is closed up nicely. Brian Boyle can remain on the fourth line with Dominic Moore moving up to replace Stepan. The Rangers are also mindful of a perceived threat against Brassard, made by the Canadiens. Martin St. Louis has a five game point streak heading in to tonights match-up, with six points in that span, and a team high of 12 points. Chris Kreider has a point streak of his own going on with 4 points in the last three games. Despite having only four points, Boyle is again, proving to be a playoff machine. His big hits and smart passes are making it impossible to find a reason not to resign him in the offseason.
Dustin Tokarski will lead the Montreal Canadiens again tonight. His .925 save percentage and 2.35 goals against average are very misleading. Tonight is his third game of the post season and his stellar play is the reason the Canadiens were able to keep themselves in game three. Brandon Prust is serving the first of his two game suspension for the late hit on Derek Stepan in game three. Goal tender Carey Price is still out for the series with a knee injury. Head coach Michele Therrien refused to comment on his line-up change possibilities based on Prust’s absence. Therrien has also done is best to stir up more media controversy with his choice of words. P.K. Subban continues to lead his team in points with 12; four of which are goals. Thomas Vanek is considered, by the Canadiens, to be struggling. Nine points in 14 games, with five goals, is better than Rick Nash’s numbers at this point in the post season. The two hottest players for the Canadiens right now are Max Paciorety, six points in six games, and Daniel Breier, with two goals in the last two games. Breier has also come full circle to be a player questioning the validity of injuries reported by the Rangers. As a Flyer, Breier was known for his dirty plays. Brendan Gallagher and Ryan McDonagh have mixed it up a few times already in this series, and they will most likely continue to battle.
The most important thing for the Rangers to remember tonight is to play hard, whistle to whistle, keep their heads up, and stay out of the penalty box. Their power play isn’t the best but it has its moments, that’s a far better option than being on the penalty kill and tempting the fates on losing another player to a possible game misconduct or suspension. I expect the referees to be strict on their calls in tonight’s game. The Rangers can’t take any chances and going up 3-1 before heading back to Montreal is how they seal this series up for good.