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Rangers will face Montreal in Eastern Conference finals

Rangers' Rick Nash, right, collides with Montreal Canadiens

Rangers' Rick Nash, right, collides with Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price during the second period. (March 30, 2013) Credit: AP

The Rangers opponent in the Eastern Conference finals will be the Montreal Canadiens, who won Game 7 of their series with the Bruins at Boston wednesday night, 3-1.

The first game of the best-of-seven series will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at Bell Centre in Montreal. Game 2 will be a road game as well for the Rangers, who would then host Games 3 and 4 at Madison Square Garden next week.

After winning Game 7 in Pittsburgh on Tuesday to secure a spot in the conference final, the Rangers were given a day off Wednesday and will practice at noon Thursday.

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said the rest was important for a team that played a challenging playoff schedule, 14 games in 26 days since April 17.

Before knowing the results of the Boston-Montreal showdown, Vigneault was asked if he had a preference in an opponent. "Not really," he told ESPN Radio in New York. "I started my coaching career in the NHL in Montreal and that would mean something to have the opportunity to play against them," he said. "And I lost the Stanley Cup [with Vancouver] in the seventh game against Boston a couple years ago, so either one will be a great thrill and will be a great matchup."

In a separate ESPN Radio interview Wednesday, Henrik Lundqvist acknowledged that the Rangers, who lost two of three regular-season games to Montreal and all three regular-season games to the Bruins, "have not had a great record against either . . . It doesn't matter, going to Boston or Montreal, it's going to be a challenge for us. Montreal is more about speed and Boston is more about power, it's going to be different types of games. Our goal is to go all the way this year."

For that to happen, Lundqvist can't waver much from the quickness and puck-tracking that he displayed in the Penguins series.

"He's been on top of his game," defenseman Anton Stralman said after the 2-1 Game 7 win in Pittsburgh. "When he plays like that, he always gives us an opportunity to win. We know as a defense if we play tight and limit the Grade-A scoring chances as much as we can, we know he's going to stop those secondary chances. That gives us a lot of confidence."

Notes & quotes: By advancing to the conference final, the Rangers forfeited their first-round pick in the June entry draft to Tampa. The deadline day trade in which Martin St. Louis was acquired for Ryan Callahan was for a first-round pick in 2015 and a second-round pick this June. But a condition was that if the Rangers made the conference final, this June's pick would become a first-round selection. Barring a trade it will be the second consecutive draft that the Rangers will not select in the top 30. Last June, their slot went to Columbus as the result of the July 23, 2012 trade that sent Rick Nash, Steven Delisle and a conditional third-round pick in 2013 to the Rangers in exchange for Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erixon and the pick. The Blue Jackets selected left wing Kerby Rychel with the 19th selection.


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