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Canadiens Game Day: Battle for a playoff spot continues in New York

Canadiens Game Day: Battle for a playoff spot continues in New York
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With 18 games remaining in the regular season it looks like it’s going to be a battle right to the end for the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Heading into Friday night’s game, the Canadiens (34-23-7) held the first wild-card playoff spot, but were only one point ahead of both the Carolina Hurricanes (34-23-6) and Pittsburgh Penguins (33-22-8), who both held a game in hand.  The Penguins visit the Buffalo Sabres Friday night, while the Hurricanes play host to the St. Louis Blues.

Heading into Friday’s games, the sportsclubstats.com website had the Canadiens’ chances of making the playoffs listed at 66.5 per cent.

Andrew Shaw is confident in the Canadiens’ chances.

“We got four lines that can play fast-paced hockey,” Shaw said after the Canadiens practised Thursday in New Jersey. “You got seven D that are going to play hard and battle for us and get pucks to the net, and we got two good goaltenders. I think we got a really good group here and if we stay focused and stay on track we’re going to be a dangerous team come playoff time.

“I think we started off great from Day 1,” added Shaw, who recorded his first NHL hat-trick in Tuesday night’s 8-1 win over the Red Wings in Detroit. “I think everyone that was here last year had that sour taste in their mouth and never wanted to be part of something like that again and we came out hot in pre-season. In training camp, everyone was working, competing, skating, and we pushed ourself into the regular season. You have your ups and down during the season, but overall I think it’s been a pretty good journey so far.”

Madison Square Garden where #Habs and #Rangers play tonight (7 pm, TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio) #HabsIO pic.twitter.com/F6Dyhqk6jx

Carey Price will start in goal against the Rangers and coach Claude Julien hasn’t ruled out the possibility of Price also playing Saturday night when the Pittsburgh Penguins visit the Bell Centre (7 p.m., SNE, SNO, SNP, SN360, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio).

Paul Byron, who missed practice Thursday with the flu, will be a game-time decision Friday night.

When asked after Friday’s optional morning skate at Madison Square Garden if there might be any lineup changes if Byron is healthy enough to play, Julien said: “We’ll see. We’re going to make some game-time decisions. We’ll see how Paulie feels during the warmup and then we’ll make a decision based on that.”

Asked if any other players were battling the flu bug, Julien said: “So far, so good.”

Carey Price heads to ice for #Habs optional morning skate at Madison Square Garden ahead of tonight’s game vs Rangers #HabsIO pic.twitter.com/PcdUzrdvo1

The Athletic recently polled nearly 200 NHL players and one of the questions asked was: Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final — who do you want starting in goal?

Price finished first with 28 per cent of the votes, followed by the Vegas Golden Knights’ Marc-André Fleury with 16 per cent.

“I heard about that,” Julien said. “People tell me. Obviously, that’s the reputation he has and that’s what he’s earned over the course of his career.”

Price actually has a losing record in the playoffs during his career with the Canadiens (25-31), but has won Olympic gold and the World Cup of Hockey with Team Canada.
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