The Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers are surging, shaking off their respective poor starts to the season.
Sean Avery’s anticipated season debut may give the Rangers a lift, while pleasing the crowd at Madison Square Garden.
The noted agitator is expected to be in the lineup as New York attempts to end the Canadiens’ four-game winning streak in an Original Six matchup Saturday night.
The Rangers (5-3-3) are 5-2-1 after starting the season 0-1-2. They began the week Monday by beating San Jose 5-2, then continued their strong stretch Thursday with a 2-1 shootout win over Anaheim.
Despite consecutive wins over playoff teams from last season to improve their record to 2-1-1 on a six-game homestand, the Rangers have been serenaded by fans to bring back Avery – a player known for his abrasive antics on and off the ice.
New York placed the left wing on waivers prior to the start of the season and sent him to Connecticut of the AHL, much to the dismay of the Garden faithful.
Avery, who was recalled Tuesday and was a healthy scratch against the Ducks, had three goals and 21 assists last season while leading the team with 174 penalty minutes.
While Avery’s presence may provide an emotional spark for the Rangers, the Canadiens are looking to match their longest winning streak from last season, a five-game run Feb. 26-March 8.
Montreal’s current four-game streak, which includes two wins over reigning Stanley Cup champion Boston, follows a 1-5-2 start that matched the franchise’s worst since 1941-42, and led to the firing of assistant coach Perry Pearn.
“I’m not too surprised,” goaltender Carey Price said of the club’s resurgence. “I was always confident in our group, I think we all were. We just weren’t getting the breaks, we felt. We’re all really confident in our ability so we just kept working at it.”
Price kept the Canadiens (5-5-2) surging Friday, making 33 saves in a 2-1 victory at Ottawa.
“We’re happy with the two points,” coach Jacques Martin said. “It’s important. It puts us at .500 and because of our start, we’ve got some ground to make up.”
Price has started every game of this winning streak while compiling a 1.25 goals-against average. He had a 3.13 GAA and went 1-4-2 in his first seven games of 2011-12.
Price has posted a 6.25 GAA while losing both of his starts at MSG. He was pulled with 1:42 left in the opening period of his most recent visit, surrendering five goals on 12 shots of a 6-3 defeat March 18.
Offseason free-agent acquisition Erik Cole has three goals in his last five games, bouncing back after failing to find the net in his first seven games with Montreal.
Right wing Marian Gaborik leads the Rangers with five goals, and added his fourth assist Thursday before converting the winning shootout attempt.
“He’s been our best player this year,” coach John Tortorella said. “He’s ready to take the next step. I hope it helps him, because he’s been our most consistent player offensively.”