Opponent Blog: Pen’s Labyrinth
Tonight at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh (7:00 PM MSG2), the New York Rangers seek their fourth straight victory against their division rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins in only their second matchup of the season. In their only other game this season on Nov 29, it was Blueshirts who victorious, using a four-goal second period to defeat the Pens 4-3.
New York will be finishing its sixth out of fourteen sets of back-to-back games this season tonight- posting a 9-0-2 record in those back-to-backs with last night’s victory – and will have Henrik Lundqvist, fresh off his Winter Classic victory, back in the net. Since 2009-10, New York is 25-8-3 in the second game of back-to-back sets, with a 12-5-2 on the road over the span.
Meanwhile, the Penguins – who haven’t played since Dec 31 – are losers of two straight games at the hands of divisional opponents the Devils and Flyers and begin a three-game home stand tonight. The team is without Sidney Crosby but still have Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, and James Neal playing well.
Pre-game notes and the keys to victory after the jump.
Injuries: Mike Sauer (concussion), Steve Eminger (shoulder), and Wojtek Wolski (groin) are all OUT for tonight’s game. Brian Boyle twisted his ankle in last night’s game against the Panthers but should be in the lineup tonight.
Artem Anisimov – Derek Stepan – Marian Gaborik
Brandon Dubinsky – Brad Richards – Ryan Callahan
Carl Hagelin – Brian Boyle – Ruslan Fedotenko
John Mitchell – Mike Rupp – Brandon Prust
Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto – Anton Stralman
Marc Staal – Stu Bickel
Scratches: Jeff Woywitka, Erik Christensen
KEYS TO VICTORY
RESILIENCY – The Rangers aren’t the only team handling adversity at the moment. The Penguins are again without their star captain Crosby and are keeping their heads above water in the tight Eastern Conference playoff race, going 5-5 since losing Crosby again. It’s a credit to their depth as well as their coaching staff; they’re not a push over so respect them.
MORE OF DUBINSKY – Can you name me – aside from Marian Gaborik – a forward who has play better over the last ten games than Brandon Dubinsky? He’s gradually getting his scoring touch back, but his physical play and strength along the boards and around the net are clearly back. He’s dominating his defenders at times on the ice so it would be wise to feed off his play. He’s on a line with Richards and Callahan again so its imperative they grind down the Penguins.
BEWARE THE BIAS – Seems like every time the Rangers are in Pittsburgh, the calls go the home team’s way more so than often. To play disciplined tonight would be an understatement. The Penguins still have offensive weapons – and the 6th best power play in the NHL but 14th ranked at home – to consider with the man advantage. They also have the 2nd ranked penalty kill at home as well. 5-on-5 play could be the difference tonight.
DIVISION SUCCESS – The Rangers are 8-1-0 in divisional games this season while the Penguins are only 5-4-0. It’s no secret that the Rangers have their best games against the best competition and specifically in divisional matchups. Let’s hope that continues tonight.
**Prediction: The Rangers dominate at even strength but are denied by Marc Andre Fleury and can’t stay out of the penalty box, allowing two PPG’s in a 3-2 loss to the Penguins. Brandon Dubinsky and Brandon Prust are the goal scorers.