New York Rangers Coach Gerard Gallant keeps insisting that all he wants to do is win and the competition and standings don’t matter, but there’s no denying it, today’s game is huge. The second place Blueshirts are one point up on the Penguins with two games in hand and this is the first time the longtime rivals play each other this season.
These are the same old Penguins. Sidney Crosby is second on the team in scoring with Kris Letang third. Evgeni Malkin has come back from major knee surgery as a point-a-game player. Brian Rust, Jake Guentzel, Evan Rodrigues are all familiar names and coach Mike Sullivan has been there since 2015. It’s frustrating, with an average age of 29.3, the Pens are the fourth oldest team in the league, but they just won’t go away.
The Penguins stumbled out of the gate, winning only 10 of their first 23 games. Since December 1, they’ve gone 21-6-3, catapulting them into contention for a top spot in the Metropolitan Division. Even scarier is the fact that they have just dropped three games in a row meaning they lost only three times in regulation in a stretch of 27 games. Yikes.
While the Penguins were beaten badly by the Devils 6-1 on Thursday, the other two losses came to Carolina and Toronto, very tough teams. They’ve lost three in a row, but let’s not read too much into that.
The Rangers have not had a lot of success against Pittsburgh. They’ve won only five in their last 15 games against them and three of the last 11 at the PPG Paints Arena. Crosby has made a habit of tormenting the Rangers with 36 goals and 96 points in 75 games.
Projected starting lineups
Igor Shesterkin gets to strut his stuff in front of a national television audience. That means that with the team playing back-to-back games, Alexandar Georgiev will get the start at home against the Canucks on Sunday. Shesterkin is 2-2-1 lifetime against the Penguins. His .899 save percentage is his fourth worst against any NHL team. His lifetime goals against average versus the Pens is 2.98.
Patrik Nemeth’s a new father so that means another start for Zac Jones. Filip Chytil is still out with a non-COVID related illness so Morgan Barron gets another start. He impress against Washington, generating some offense and playing a physical game.
NEW YORK RANGERS
20 Kreider– 93 Zibanejad –13 Lafrenière
10 Panarin– 16 Strome – 29 Hunt
14 McKegg – 47 Barron – 15 Gauthier
21 Goodrow– 17 Rooney – 75 Reaves
55 Lindgren – 23 Fox
79 Miller – 8 Trouba
6 Jones – 45 Schneider
59 Jake Guentzel – 87 Sidney Crosby – 17 Bryan Rust
43 Danton Heinen – 71 Evgeni Malkin – 42 Kasperi Kapanen
23 Brock McGinn – 77 Jeff Carter – 9 Evan Rodrigues
20 Kasper Bjorkqvist – 11 Brian Boyle – 49 Dominik Simon
8 Brian Dumoulin – 58 Kris Letang
28 Marcus Pettersson – 6 John Marino
52 Mark Friedman – 2 Chad Ruhwedel
35 Tristan Jarry
1 Casey DeSmith
Defenseman Mike Matheson is out with an injury from their last game. He should be replaced by Mark Friedman, though the Penguins called up Pierre-Olivier Joseph from the AHL.
Tristan Jarry has had an excellent season, but his last three starts have not been good and he was yanked in the Devils game after giving up five goals on 24 shots. Jarry imploded in the playoffs last season so it will be interesting to see how he responds.
While Jarry is 5-2 lifetime against New York, his .896 save percentage and 2.99 goals against average is not great.
How to watch and the live conversation
The game is scheduled to start at 3pm and it will be televised nationally on ABC. The live stream will be available on ESPN+. The radiocast will be on ESPN 98.7 FM. It’s the second game on ABC for the Blueshirts with the first the Black Friday 5-2 win over the Boston Bruins.
Don’t forget that Blue Line Station’s live thread is active now and you can comment and converse with your fellow Ranger fans throughout the game in the comments section below. We’ve all been waiting a long time for this game and there will be a lot to talk about.