“There are a lot of tools in his toolbox, so you have to be ready to play against him. He’s obviously a great player, one of the elite ones in the league. He has come back so he is fresh and wants to prove that he’s ready to go. We have to be focused on him, but they have a lot of key guys, not just him, and the Penguins were winning without him, as well. We just have to play him honest and get after it (tonight).”
Michael Sauer via Blueshirts United
Opponent Blog: Pens Labrynth
Following two impressive wins against the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers, the New York Rangers face a true test playing the Pittsburgh Penguins – who lead the division and Eastern Conference in points – tonight at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers will look to improve on their 6-1-1 on Garden ice – their best start at home since the ’92-93 season.
Meanwhile, the Penguins have won two in a row, and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is an impressive 10-1-2 in his last 13 starts. NHL poster boy Sidney Crosby is back in the Pens lineup and has picked up where he left off last season, posting nine points (2-7-9) in his first four games – including 4 points (2 goals, 2 assists) in his first game back against the New York Islanders.
Join me after the jump for the full pre-game report.
Injuries: Wojtek Wolski (sports hernia), Mike Rupp (knee), Marc Staal (concussion) and Anton Stralman (healthy scratch) are all OUT for tonight’s game.
KEYS TO VICTORY:
- CONTAINMENT: You can’t stop the Pittsburgh Penguins offense; you can only hope to contain it. They boast the 6th best goals per game in the NHL at 3.08, scoring 74 goals in 24 games. What’s more, the scoring is balanced as five forwards have at least 5 goals, with James Neal and Jordan Staal with 13 and 12 goals, respectively. I haven’t even mentioned Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, or Sidney Crosby yet…
- TAKE THE HIGH ROAD: With Crosby back and emotions running high, you can bet this game will have a physical edge to it, especially from Sid the Kid. He’s already made an imprint with his Nick Foligno elbow incident against Ottawa recently. Refusing to engage in Crosby’s “antics” and focusing on defending him should be the game plan.
- SPECIAL TEAMS: It’s no secret the Penguins get the benefit of “generosity” from their refs as they’ve been given 102 power play opportunities (3rd most in the NHL) and are converting 18.6% of their chances (9th best in the NHL). On the flip side, their penalty kill is second only to the Devils at 91.3% – while only being shorthanded 80 times. Outplaying the Penguins 5-on-5 seems to be the best option for success tonight.
- DICTATING THE PACE: Here comes a stat barrage (courtesy of Rob Kowal of SportsRadio NY). The Rangers are 6-0-0 when outshooting opponents (only NHL team undefeated when doing so), 11-1-0 when scoring first, tying for first in the NHL in wins and ranking second with a .917 win% in those games, and an amazing 7-0-0 all-time when Brandon Prust is assessed a fighting major in the opening 2 minutes.
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