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Habs face Rangers in battle of original six strugglers

MONTREAL -- After getting five goals in a game for the first time this season, the Montreal Canadiens had momentum going into Thursday's game, but instead wound up on the wrong side of a 4-0 shutout loss to the Los Angeles Kings.

On Saturday evening at the Bell Centre, the Canadiens (2-7-1) will take on another struggling team, in an original six matchup with the New York Rangers (3-6-2).

This will be the second meeting between these two teams this season, with New York taking the first one 2-0 at Madison Square Garden on October 8th. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist made 34 saves in the shutout win, and defenseman Brady Skjei and center Mika Zibanejad scored the goals for the Blueshirts. The game wasn't without controversy, however, as Montreal had two disallowed goals in the first period before Skjei's eventual game winner late in the first frame.

The Canadiens will look to get back in the goal scoring column and win column if they want to make a push down the stretch, as they have only scored 18 goals in 10 games thus far this season, placing them 31st in the league.

"I'll be the first one in here to tell you if the guys in here aren't trying, or there's a lack of effort, but that's just not the case," forward Brendan Gallagher said after practice Friday morning. "The guys in here care. They care about the jersey."

Both teams have given up 38 goals this season, 27th in the league, which is hard to believe, considering New York and Montreal have two of the best goaltenders in the entire world in Lundqvist and Carey Price.

Thursday night saw the Canadiens play a consistent first period up until the last minute, when the Kings scored two quick goals in 11 seconds. Rookie left wing Adrian Kempe and center Tyler Toffoli were the ones that found their way onto the scoresheet.

In the second, Los Angeles captain Anze Kopitar rang a shot just underneath the crossbar, and in the third defenseman Kurtis MacDermid scored his first career NHL goal to round out L.A.'s scoring.

Montreal fired 40 shots on Kings netminder Jonathan Quick, eight of which were fired by captain Max Pacioretty, on goaltender Jonathan Quick but were unable to get one past him as he recorded his second shutout of the season, and 46th of his career, in his milestone 500th career NHL game.

"We got the chances," Pacioretty said after the loss. "We just weren't able to score on Quickie. He played great."

Montreal had five opportunities on the powerplay Thursday night, but were unable to capitalize, as their special teams fell to 29th in the league (12.2 percent).

Of note, recent Canadiens call-up, left winger Nikita Scherbak seemed to injure himself in the contest in the first period. He returned for a shift in the second, but then left the game for good. Head coach Claude Julien is calling it a lower-body injury and says the rookie winger will be re-evaluated.

New York's last game, also Thursday evening, was a 5-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes (0-9-1), the only team in the NHL yet to post a victory. The game saw the Rangers get offensive contributions primarily from their fourth line, as they collected four of their team's five goals, two each by forwards Pavel Buchnevich and Michael Grabner.

"I think we just meshed really well," Nieves told NHL.com after the game. "Me, Grabner and Buchnevich. Grabner is a really fast player like me, so it's easy to keep up with him. A guy like Buchnevich can put the puck anywhere, so they made my transition here pretty easy."

Boo Nieves recorded his first three NHL points (all assists) in the contest. Backup goaltender Ondrej Pavelec recorded his first win with his new club after signing with the Rangers this past summer. It's expected that Pavelec will get the start in goal against the Habs on Saturday night.

Montreal will be without right winger Ales Hemsky, who is still out with concussion-like symptoms, as well as defenseman David Schlemko, who is recovering from a broken hand, and Scherbak, who is out with what is being described as a lower-body injury.

As for New York, they are currently a healthy lineup with no injuries to report through 11 games this season.
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