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Up-and-down Rangers face Canadiens again

NEW YORK - JANUARY 17: Sean Avery #16

NEW YORK - JANUARY 17: Sean Avery #16 of the New York Rangers fights Josh Gorges #26 of the Montreal Canadiens during their game on January 17, 2010 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Credit: Getty/Al Bello

MONTREAL - The sand in the hourglass is beginning to slide faster. After facing the Canadiens Saturday night, the Rangers have 10 games left before the Olympic break and 11 before the trading deadline. The urgency, players agree, is there.

All but five of the final 30 games of the regular season (Phoenix, Colorado, Los Angeles on the road, Nashville and St. Louis at home) are against Eastern Conference teams. So the hunt for the Rangers' fifth straight playoff berth since the lockout will be decided against familiar foes.

On Saturday night, the Rangers will face a team that surely must be thinking about payback for a 6-2 loss at the Garden on Sunday that included two fights and 46 minutes in penalties in the second period.

But just like the previous matchup, the Canadiens will face the Rangers in the second game of a back-to-back, having played Friday night in New Jersey. The Rangers, who were shut out for the third time in six games Thursday, cannot let many such chances slip away.

"After two games when we score 14 goals, we're right back where we were going into St. Louis," Vinny Prospal said. "It just shouldn't happen. We're a successful team when we can cycle the puck, but five-on-five, we just couldn't do it."

Meanwhile, the debate raged among fans over the Rangers' response - or non-response - to the Dan Carcillo-Marian Gaborik fight. After the game, Dan Girardi said it was a split-second decision, that he probably should have jumped in and taken the game misconduct for being the third man in, and would the next time. In his postgame remarks, John Tortorella said the matter had been addressed.

With that matter in the rear-view mirror, the Rangers (24-20-7) need to answer quickly - with smarts, muscle and goals. "We had a lot of turnovers," said Tortorella, who kept the team off the ice Friday. "I don't think we did a good enough job of trying to chip the puck behind them and try to forecheck. They beat us to pucks. When they pressured, they sustained it. When we had the opportunities, we were late."

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