So far, 2023 has been good to the New York Rangers.
But the Montreal Canadiens continue to struggle.
On Sunday, the host Rangers will aim to extend their point streak to eight games while trying to hand the Canadiens an eighth consecutive road defeat.
Though the Rangers went 8-3-2 in December, they ended the month in a 1-2-1 rut. However, New York, jockeying for positioning in the tight Metropolitan Division, earned a point in its final 2022 game and is 5-0-1 in 2023.
On Thursday, K’Andre Miller tied the game with 0.2 seconds remaining in regulation, and fellow defenseman Adam Fox scored 1:16 into overtime to give the Rangers their second straight victory, 2-1 over Dallas at home.
“Our division is tight, and the difference could be a point or two here or there,” said Fox, who has two goals and seven assists in six January games.
While Fox remains one of the NHL’s best blueliners, Miller may not be far behind. He’s already posted career highs with 18 assists and 23 points, and has four helpers with three goals during a career-high five-game point streak.
“The talent’s there, (and) when he’s playing with confidence, it’s scary,” Fox told the New York Post about the third-year Miller. “He’s blossoming into a real good defenseman and a key contributor for us.”
Fox and Miller each had an assist, while Filip Chytil scored twice during New York’s 4-1 victory at Montreal on Jan. 5. Chris Kreider also registered one of his 19 goals as the Rangers beat the Canadiens for the fourth time in the past five meetings.
But Kreider could miss a second consecutive game with an upper-body issue.
Only Columbus has fewer points (28) than Montreal’s 37 in the Eastern Conference, and the Canadiens are 3-11-1 since Dec. 14. While Montreal clamped down defensively Saturday against the New York Islanders, it managed just 23 shots and Nick Suzuki’s 16th goal midway through the third period of a 2-1 defeat.
Though the Canadiens have been outscored 34-12 during their current 0-6-1 road slide, Saturday marked the first time in 10 games they did not allow three or more goals.
“We had a lot of resilience (Saturday), and once we found our footing, I really liked our game,” Montreal defenseman Jordan Harris said. “I feel our game’s continuing to grow.”
Suzuki and Cole Caufield have combined for 41 goals this season, but only Joel Armia scored against the Rangers this month.
Montreal’s Sam Montembeault stopped 36 shots on Saturday during his fourth loss in five starts. However, in this back-to-back scenario, it’s uncertain if Jake Allen (3.52 goals-against average), who made 27 saves vs. New York earlier in the month, will be healthy enough to see his first action in four games after suffering an upper-body injury.
Cayden Primeau was called up from Laval of the AHL on Monday but has yet to play.
New York’s Igor Shesterkin has won three straight and seven of his past eight home starts and owns a 2.41 GAA during the past seven there.
Meanwhile, backup Jaroslav Halak (2.85 GAA) has won his past three starts, and faced 17 shots in his most recent, at Montreal.
–Field Level Media