Steve Zipay takes you inside the locker room, home and on the road, with the New York Rangers, and also writes about the NHL, off and on the ice.
Five things to know before Game 3
1. The lineups beyond goalies Henrik Lundqvist and Dustin Tokarski are still a little murky. For the Rangers, Benoit Pouliot is back, but apparently not injured Derick Brassard, who has played just 35 seconds in this series. Coach Alain Vigneault termed him “day to day” and said in his French-language section of the briefing that the center’s readiness was in doubt. Dom Moore moved up in Game 2 to center Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello, and winger Dan Carcillo slid onto the fourth line. That could happen again for Game 3 on Thursday night. Canadiens coach Michel Therrien hinted at changes, although it appeared struggling Thomas Vanek would dress. Ex-NYR winger Brandon Prust didn’t skate, but Therrien said he would be available.
2. Speaking of goalies, Henrik Lundqvist, who will play his 83rd consecutive postseason game on Thursday, has 40 career playoff wins, one shy of tying Mike Richter for the most in team history. Tokarski, 24, will start for the first time at MSG. “I thought he handled it really well for the first game, especially at the Bell Centre,” Therrien said. “It's a different pressure when you're on the road. He played really well on the road for us this year.” Said Rick Nash: “We did a little scouting on the goalie as we do before every game or every series. There wasn’t much on him and even we did see the clips there didn’t seem like there were (many) holes or downsides to his game. So, we have our hands full.”
3. Rangers are going for their sixth consecutive win. The last time they were up 2-0 in a series was against the Caps in 2009, and then up 3-1, before losing in seven. They are 4-3 at MSG in this postseason and this is their first on home ice in 11 days. “We're a confident group,” said Vigneault. “Since we've had a longer stretch here in between Game 2 and Game 3, we've been able to go through a couple of areas that we feel we must be better tonight, and we've gone through areas that we need to continue to do well. We know that they're going to be ready.”
4. The penalty kill is 20-for-20 and 28-for-29 in the last 10 games. You wonder if that’s going to give against the Habs at some point. Vigneault said the key to the success has been “a combination of the willingness to get in shooting lanes and having good sticks. Penalty killing is four guys on the ice working together with the goaltender, and our guys have done a good job.” The PP is 7-21. Here’s St. Louis, who scored with the man-advantage in Game 2: “We got some good bounces and we worked extremely hard to get that part of the game going. I feel like everybody who’s on the power play has been contributing to our success, whether it’s our shot from the point, the poise net-front. Everybody is part of the equation.”
5. Watch for the Rangers to come out hard, but tighten their defense around Lundqvist as the first period progresses. Asked about playing defense and playing fast, Chris Kreider said: "I think they kind of go hand-in-hand. If we do maintain our defensive structure, it allows us to get up ice, to get odd-man rushes. It’s that defense-first mentality that lets us play fast."