The Canadiens and New York Rangers will square off in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final Saturday afternoon at the Bell Centre (1 p.m., CBC, NBC, RDS, TSN Radio 690).
The Canadiens practised Friday morning in Brossard and Alex Galchenyuk, who has been sidelined since suffering a lower-body injury on April 9 in Chicago, skated on a fifth line rotating with Ryan White, Travis Moen and George Parros. Galchenyuk has been given the OK for full contact.
The first four lines remained the same as they were for Game 7 against the Boston Bruins.
The Rangers practised in New York Friday morning before flying to Montreal.
“We both played in do-or-die Game 7 situations last round, and both of our teams were desperate,” the Canadiens’ Dale Weise told reporters in Brossard after practice. “For them, it was about winning three games in a row. For us, it was about winning two. I think that level of compete is going to be there because it’s the conference finals. I don’t think anything is going to drop off. Our building is going to be rocking on Saturday afternoon. It’s going to be nuts. We’re looking forward to it.”
This marks the first time the the Canadiens and Rangers have met in the playoffs since 1996, when New York eliminated Montreal in six games in the first round. Overall, the teams have met 14 times in the postseason with each team winning seven times.
The Rangers’ Brad Richards is looking forward to playing at the Bell Centre.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s the best place to play,” Richards told reporters in New York on Thursday. “I’ve been fortunate enough to see Super Bowls, I was at Yankees-Red Sox at old Yankee Stadium Game 7, World Series, I’ve played in the Stanley Cup finals.
“I can’t imagine any other sporting event that is this amazing of an atmosphere. It’s very special.”
The Canadiens will be facing a former Montreal coach for the second straight series after knocking off Claude Julien’s Boston Bruins. Alain Vigneault, who started his NHL coaching career with the Canadiens in 1997, is now behind the Rangers bench.
On Sunday, the Rangers players will attend the funeral for Martin St. Louis’s mother in Montreal. France St. Louis died last week of a heart attack at age 63.
Here’s how the Canadiens lines and defence pairings looked at Friday’s practice:
(Photo by Dario Ayala/The Gazette)