So the Montreal Canadiens have won three out of their last four games after going through a horrific 2-8 stretch to end the month of December.
But let's not get too excited just yet since all three games required required more than just regulation time to produce an winner with three being decided in overtime and one going to a shootout. But that is not necessarily a bad thing because sometimes it takes winning a few tight games for a team to regain their confidence.
The Canadiens, fresh off of a surprising 3-2 come-from-behind overtime win against the division rival Bruins, are touching down in New York a banged up team. Despite their apparent turnaround the Canadiens' on-ice personnel are dropping like flies.
We all know that Andrei Markov is gone for the season but last week the Canadiens got news that Josh Gorges would be joining him on the long term injury reserve (LTIR). In addition, Roman Hamrlik had to take some therapy time, Jaroslav Spacek hurt himself, albeit minorly, during the last game, James Wizniewski took a painful slash to the wrist and Michael Cammalleri left the game with flu-like symptoms.
That a lot of something!
For tonight's game, Cammalleri will again be on the sidelines again, still suffering from the flu. This opens the door for Lars Eller, who has been a healthy scratch for the last three games, to get back in the lineup and prove that he belongs.
Eller will be playing the wing alongside Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn.
Nothing is confirmed yet but look for Jacques Martin to keep David Desharnais together with AHL-linemate Max Pacioretty. In the few shifts they played together against Boston, they looked good together and it will be interesting to see how they respond over a full 60 minutes against NHL competition.
If these two can rediscover their AHL chemistry, the Habs might be onto a dynamite duo.
It also looks like center Scott Gomez will be lined up next to Benoit Pouliot and Mathieu Darche again, in the same combo that looked good during the third period against Boston.
For New York, things have been much better than the Canadiens of late. The Rangers are a team on fire having won three in a row, five out of their last seven and eight out of their last 12.
New York has 53 points in the standings, four more than Montreal, with a 25-15-3 record, and is a team that, apart from Marian Gaborik, has few star players in their lineup. In place of stars players the Rangers boast balance.
As such, they are a team that has been able to win despite the many injuries that have befallen them. They will again be without the services of Ryan Callahan, Erik Christensen, Vinny Prospal and Derek Boogaard tonight.
They will, however, be seeing the debut of forward Wojtek Wolski, who was just acquired from Phoenix in return for Michael Rozsival.
Given the importance of this "four-point" conference matchup, I would expect both teams to go with their "A" starters meaning we could see one intense goaltending dual between Henrik Lundqvist and Carey Price.
Game time is at 7:00 pm with the puck dropping around 7:10 pm.
Update - Jan 11, 2011 - 1:05 pm
There are a few lineup changes to announce: Yannick Weber, a healthy scratch against the Bruins, will be back in the lineup with Alexandre Picard sitting in his place.
In the net, Montreal will be surprisingly starting Alex Auld.
I am going to watch the game at McLean’s pub in downtown Montreal, with a bunch of Twitter people and perhaps a few media types—still to be confirmed. It is an open invitation so feel free to join us! We'll be there as of 6 pm.