After two overtime defeats to the NHL’s elite, the Blueshirts look to continue their competitive play against the Montreal Canadiens (7:00 P.M. ET, MSG).
Sunday afternoon, the Blueshirts fell 6-5 in overtime to the defending Stanley Cup champions. Despite trailing by two goals on two separate occasions, the Rangers were resilient and tied the game with 31 seconds left.
On Wednesday, the league leading Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Rangers 4-3 in overtime. The Rangers found themselves down by two goals in the second period and fought back to tie the game entering the final period. After keeping the NHL’s best offense scoreless in the third period, the Rangers fell in overtime on a Victor Hedman goal.
“If that’s what we’re going to do against the elite teams in the league, I like the direction we’re going,” said head coach David Quinn.
Brendan Lemieux made his NYR debut after being acquired from Winnipeg. The 22-year-old has been compared to have a similar play style to Brad Marchand. Due to the Jets having a stacked offensive core, Lemieux’s minutes were limited.
“I’m really fortunate to be here.” Lemieux said. “I’m really happy to be here. Getting an opportunity is all I’ve ever asked for, and I’m getting it.”
Entering Friday’s game, the Blueshirts are set for another debut. 21-year-old Libor Hajek is set to make his NHL debut on the blueline. Hajek was acquired from the Lightning at last year’s trade deadline in the blockbuster trade that sent Ryan McDonagh to Tampa Bay.
“I was in the gym after the game — we played yesterday — and the coach just grabbed me and told me in his office,” Hajek said. “It was a great feeling.”
Hajek will be partnered with Neal Pionk in his debut. Pionk made his NHL debut last season and hopes to help Hajek like Marc Staal helped him.
“I remember that time last year when I got called up,” Pionk said. So, I’ll do everything to help him. He (Staal) has been there and done that and he helped me a lot and I’ll try to do the same things with him (Hajek).”
Pionk will hope for another repeat performance against the Canadiens. In the first meeting at Madison Square Garden, Pionk went end-to-end to score a late game winning goal past Carey Price.
Price will start the last meeting of the season between both sides. Price has started 11 of the past 12 games and appeared in all 12 when he played 45 minutes in relief of Antti Niemi. The Canadiens currently sit in the first wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. However, if tonight’s results don’t fall in their favor, they will fall out of a playoff spot.
Brett Howden, who has missed the past 14 games due to an MCL sprain, has been cleared to play and is in contention to return the Rangers lineup on Sunday.
“He’s close,” said Quinn, on Thursday. “He’s cleared everything, but we just want to make sure he’s ready to go. He probably won’t play tomorrow, I’m hoping for Sunday.”
Freddy Claesson will likely be a healthy scratch Friday along with Filip Chytil who sat out Wednesday’s game.