The second place New York Rangers are the away team tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Scheduled puck drop, from the CONSOL Energy Center, is 7:00pm
The New York Rangers dropped last night’s game to the Edmonton Oilers, holding them to their 31-24-3 record. With 65 points, the Rangers are one point ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers and two points ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have a game in hand over both teams. Tonight’s game will be an Olympic showdown preview. Henrik Lundqvist gets the start tonight after sitting out last night. Lundqvist has a .919 save percentage and 2.43 goals against average. With assist number 27 last night, Mats Zuccarello now leads the team with 42 points Over the 41 points of Brad Richards. Zuccarello and Derick Brassard have continued their points streaks to seven points in five games. Brassard has 11 goals for 33 points; fourth in points on the team. Derek Stepan is third in points with 10 goals for 35 points but he has been quiet recently. Brian Boyle has been a player on a mission lately. While he has only four goals for 13 points this season,he has posted three points in his last five games. He has also had a huge impact while he is on the ice with his increased physical play and more shots on net. The defense is heating up as Kevin Klein is starting to get settled and John Moore is able to be a little more offensively minded. The Rangers will have to maintain a strong physical presence tonight. Leading the team in hits is still Dan Girardi with 137, followed by Ryan Callahan with 126, Chris Kreider with 120 and Brian Boyle with 144. We know the Penguins will shoot, a LOT. Girardi should be able to greatly increase his 11 blocks and Ryan McDonagh should also be able to add to his 94 blocks.
Tonight the Penguins will be without defenseman Kris Letang. It was released today that Letang suffered a heart attack last week and that, after a battery of tests, he has a hole in his heart. He IS expected to play again but will be out for monitoring at least six weeks.
Then Penguins lead the Metropolitan Division with 82 points from their 40-15-2 record. Coach Dan Byslma has given Marc-Andre Fleury the start tonight. Fleury is 31-13-1 this season with a 2.22 goals against average and a .918 save percentage. Fleury is a “Hockey Cananda roster snub. It’s no surprise to say Sidney Crosby leads the team in all offensive categories with 28 goals and 49 assists for 77 points. Evgeni Malkin is 20 points behind in second place with 17 goals for 57 points. Chris Kunitz is keeping close to Crosby with 27 goals but has only 55 points total. The Penguins are stacked with offensive dangers and they are all names you hear in every highlight reel. James Neal, Jussi Jokinen, and now Olli Maatta. The Penguins also have Tanner Glass to play a very physical game, and he will finish his checks; he leads the team with 166 hits. Other heavy hitters are Brooks Orpik with 140, Kunitz with 121, and Craig Adams with 120. If the Rangers are looking to get the Penguins short-handed, which is what they should be doing, they should be pestering Glass, Robert Bortuzzo, and Deryk Engelland. They lead the team with 57, 54, 50 penalties in minutes; respectively. Other players out of tonight’s line-up include Taylor Pyatt (lower body injury), and Pascal Dupuis who is scheduled for knee surgery during the Olympic break. The Penguins have placed Beau Bennet (wrist), Chris Connor (hand), and Joe Vitale (wrist) on injured reserve.
Tonight the Rangers have to focus on not committing crimes on the ice. Like last night, they HAVE to stay out of the penalty box if they want to win. They also need to score; a lot. They cannot let up on the pressure for even 10 seconds. It’s going to be another night of a full 60 minutes to play.
After tonight’s game, Callahan, McDonagh, and Stepan will call Bylsma ”coach” as USA “Goes for Gold” in Sochi Russia. For Rick Nash, Lundqvist, Carl Hagelin, and Zuccarello he will still be the other team’s coach.