Once again the New York Rangers prepare to face the Pittsburgh Penguins. Puck drop tonight is scheduled for 7:30pm ET at Madison Square Garden. The Penguins lead the series two games to one; both were shut out victories.
The biggest news for the Rangers today is the re-emergence of Chris Kreider in full practice with his teammates. Medical clearance was granted and head coach, Alain Vigneault designated Kreider as being “day-to-day”. If Kreider does manage to get into the line-up tonight, there will be more major movements. At this point, it couldn’t hurt. Henrik Lundqvist is surely taking the last two games hard. It is not his fault the team has been unable to score. Lundqvist is now 5-5 in the post season with a .922 save percentage and a 2.08 goals against average on 257 shots. Benoit Pouliot posted three points in the last four games. He’s been the most productive Ranger in this series, he even got the insurance after Derick Brassard’s game winning goal didn’t get the referees’ attention until well after the fact. The team is still looking for more offensive output; their output is offensive but not the way it should be. The top six have struggled all season but they are downright abysmal in the post season. The power play has got to get better, there is no other option. The third and fourth lines should start getting more ice time if they are the only ones getting on the stat sheets. Defensively, Marc Staal and Kevin Klein have been stellar for the Rangers. Dan Girardi seems to be struggling with Ryan McDonagh, who doesn’t seem to be at full capacity yet. Raphael Diaz did add some life to the Rangers’ power play. The number of shots increased which is a step in the right direction. Shots don’t solve everything, Rick Nash leads all post season players with 41 shots on goal this year.
Marc-Andre Fleury is in the zone. What else can you say? Anyone who knows, understands that he is either really on or a complete train wreck. Unfortunately for the Rangers, they are not facing the train wreck. The Penguins are getting points from their top guys, except Sidney Crosby, on a regular basis. Crosby netted his first post season goal since last year’s playoffs in game three. Evgeny Malkin leads the Penguins with four goals for 10 points in nine games. Jussi Jokinen, Matt Niskanen, and Paul Martin each have eight points in nine games. Jokinen leads the team with five goals while Martin leads the team with eight assists. Kris Letang and James Neal lead the Penguins with 10 penalties in minutes each. Normal teams would put pressure on those two, trying to gain the power play advantage. The Penguins are without backup goal tender Tomas Vokoun, still suffering from a blood clot, Brooks Orpik who has an undisclosed injury, Pascal Dupuis has a knee injury, and Chris Connor has a hand injury.