Season Series: First of four meetings. Last season, the Canadiens won the first three before the Rangers busted out with a 6-3 victory in the most recent matchup on March 18. Tomas Plekanec of Montreal and Brian Boyle of New York led all scorers with 2 goals.
Big Story: When is the return of a player who scored 3 goals in 76 games the previous season a major storyline? When that player is Sean Avery, apparently as beloved among the Madison Square Garden faithful as anyone in recent memory. Rangers fans have been clamoring for Avery, who averaged 58 penalty minutes for each of those goals but can be a sparkplug for the team when he plays his pest role with enough restraint. He cleared re-entry waivers earlier this week after a stint in the AHL and was a healthy scratch in Thursday's shootout win over the Ducks. Now, thanks to injuries to Mike Rupp's knee and Wojtek Wolski's groin, Avery will get into his first NHL game this season.
Canadiens: The season reached an early crossroads for Montreal following a 1-5-2 start that threatened to take on horrific proportions with the microscope the team plays under. But as quickly as the Canadiens created that hysteria, they seem to have erased it by winning four straight to reach the .500 mark. Their revival continued Friday night with a 2-1 win in Ottawa, forwards Erik Cole and Andrei Kostitsyn scoring three minutes apart late in the second period and Carey Price making 33 saves.
"I'm not too surprised," Price said. "I was always confident in our group, I think we all were. We just weren't getting the breaks, we felt. We're all really confident in our ability so we just kept working at it."
Rangers: A six-game homestand for the Blueshirts concludes this weekend with games against Montreal and Winnipeg. While they started out blowing leads in disappointing losses to the Maple Leafs and Senators, the Rangers have since rebounded with big wins over the Sharks and Ducks. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 27 of 28 shots and Marian Gaborik had the decisive goal in the penalty-shot tiebreaker in the 2-1 win over Anaheim.
"I'm happy I got a chance to go," said Gaborik, who had been 2-for-19 previously in the shootout. "I had my move before I went. I think it was about time. I haven't gone for quite a few games. I'm happy I got a chance and I'm happy I scored."
Who's Hot: Price has allowed just five goals while posting a .956 save percentage during the Canadiens' win streak. David Desharnais has 1 goal and 4 assists during a four-game points streak. … Rangers captain Ryan Callahan has 4 goals and 1 assist in the last five games. Brad Richards has 2 goals and 2 assists in the last three games.
Injury Report: Montreal forward Scott Gomez (upper body) is out indefinitely. Forward Ryan White (sports hernia) and defensemen Chris Campoli (leg) and Andrei Markov (knee) are on injured reserve. … Rupp is headed for arthroscopic knee surgery, while Wolski is day-to-day. New York also has defenseman Marc Staal (concussion) on injured reserve.
Stat Pack: Friday marked the 6,200th game the Canadiens played in franchise history, dating back to a 7-6 win over the Cobalt Silver Kings on Jan. 5, 1910. … Rangers defensemen have accounted for 23.1 percent of the team's points, fourth in the NHL. Their only regulation goal Thursday came courtesy of blueliner Jeff Woywitka.
Puck Drop: Montreal comes to Madison Square Garden for only the 11th Saturday visit in what will be the franchise's 303rd trip to New York. It's just the third Saturday game between the teams in New York since 1964. In contrast, the teams have met 194 times on Sunday night in New York.