Schneider could return as Habs battle for playoff berth Staff

4/9/2009 2:18:38 PM

The Eastern Conference playoff picture could be settled tonight as the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Florida Panthers are featured in an 11-game NHL schedule.

The Canadiens are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, just one point up on the Rangers and both teams have two games left to play. The Habs can clinch a playoff berth tonight if they earn one point in Boston tonight. Also if the Panthers don't win their remaining two games - starting tonight in Atlanta - the Habs can back into the postseason. If the Panthers and Canadiens finish tied in points, the Canadiens have the edge based on the head-to-head tie-breaker. 

"We can't get upset and pack it in now," said Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, whose team wraps up the season at home against Pittsburgh on Saturday. "It's too important. The good news is, we get another chance to clinch."

But with puck-moving defencemen Mathieu Schneider and Andrei Markov on the shelf, the Habs have scored just three goals in their last two contests. Also, Montreal has been held to two or fewer goals in each of their last four games against the Bruins.

Some good news, however could be on the horizon. RDS reports that Schneider, who suffered an upper-body injury in Saturday's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, practiced with the club this morning and intends to play. Defenceman Yannick Weber was recalled from the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League Wednesday and will likely join him on the power play and do spot duty at forward.

Montreal lost 3-1 to the Rangers on Tuesday night despite getting Price back in net. The 21-year-old made 41 saves after missing three games due to the flu but gave up a bad goal early in the second period. Price bounced a pass off the skate of teammate Josh Gorges, allowing Nik Andropov to poke the puck in.

Price struggled in his last game at Boston - a 6-1 loss Nov. 13.

In New York, the Rangers take on their Atlantic Division rivals from Philly in an effort to secure their fourth consecutive trip to the postseason.

The Rangers hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference - two points ahead of Florida. New York can clinch a playoff berth with a win against the Flyers in either of their remaining two matchups.

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who starts in goal tonight, is 1-3-1 with a 4.18 GAA in his last six starts and was pulled in two of them - both against the Flyers.

The Flyers, who visits the New York Islanders on Saturday, is looking to keep the chase alive for the Atlantic Division title. They trail New Jersey by five points with a game in hand. The Devils visit Ottawa tonight and face Carolina on Saturday.

Florida is three points behind Montreal for seventh place.

"I don't know, I'm not a statistician," coach Peter DeBoer said about the Panthers' playoff chances. "We have to win our next two games. I think we have a chance to get in."

The Panthers finish the season at home against Washington on Saturday.