Penguins (24-10-1) (45 points, 1st in Metropolitan)
Rangers (16-17-1) (33 points, 5th in Metropolitan)
The Penguins make the season’s final journey to Madison Square Garden for another nationally televised “Rivalry Night” matchup. We’re wondering if the Regis McGuire Sports Network will use the same promo shit they did for the first time these teams met on Rivalry Night on November 6, because the game itself was a pile of dogshit served beside a diaperful of Indian food. The Penguins lost 5-1.
The Penguins will put their lineup full of youngsters out for yet another game as their lineup works towards getting healthy. Will be interesting (read: annoying as hell) to see how the national telecast addresses the Penguins’ injury woes. But it will be yet another great test for “the new guys” as they take on a division rival at one of the most famous sports venues in the world.
Late start with an 8:00 drop at MSG. And as we mentioned, it’s on NBCSN.
More mixed imagery of food and feces after the jump.
The Penguins have won 9 of their last 10, now. The only loss in there was the disaster in Boston. What we’re seeing isn’t an accident – it’s what happens when an entire organization 1) buys into a system of play that works more often than it doesn’t, and 2) drafts and acquires players who fit that system of play well. Can’t say enough about how the young defensemen have stepped up as of late. It’s going to have to continue, too.
The Penguins hold a 10-point lead over second place in the Metropolitan, in large part due to their hot play as of late and their consistent play since mid-November. Evgeni Malkin got hot and that was obviously a huge help, but what Sidney Crosby has done so far this season is beyond special. His 47 points lead the league (but watch out for Patty Kane at 46). And yeah, that Marc-Andre Fleury guy leads the league in wins (19), shutouts (3), and is top-10 in GAA (7th at 1.98) and save percentage (10th at .926). There, just wanted to take a moment to appreciate all that.
Neat little piece on Matty Niskanen, who went from trade bait to defensive anchor in less than half a season, with circumstances dictating some of that ascendancy.
With Jayson Megna being injured in a collision with Jonathan Bernier, the Penguins recalled Brian Gibbons from the AHL. You’ll remember Gibbons as being that guy who probably shouldn’t have been sent back down in the first place. Oh, yeah, and even though Megna was originally described as day-to-day, he’s been placed on IR. Thanks, Bylsmabama.
Ulf was in the house to see Philip’s NHL debut on Monday. He’ll be watching again, but from behind the Rangers’ bench as an assistant. If Regis has this game, it may be hockey history overload. Ambulance will be on-site and defibrillators ready to go.
We’ll monitor the status of Evgeni Malkin throughout the day, because we have nothing better to do. Right, Amanda?
Gibbons – Jokinen – Zolnierczyk
Conner – Sutter – Vitale
Adams – Sill – Kobasew
Maatta – Niskanen
Brotuzzo – Dumoulin
Samuelsson – Despres
This is actually a line in the NHL.com preview:
Who’s hot: … Rangers center Brad Richards is 1-2-3 in his past five games.
Brad Richards makes $6.67 million dollars per year. Hot like lava.
The Rangers are coming off a 4-3 7-round shootout win over the Calgary Flames. The Rangers dressed seven defensemen in the game, but coach Alain Vigneault says they’ll revert back to 3 pairings and 4 forward lines for tonight’s matchup. If Dylan McIlrath is in that lineup, get familiar with him, because “we cannot ignore what we need to hate.”
Derek Dorsett has over 100 PIM, too (101). You’ll probably hear his name called once or twice, we’re guessing.
The Rangers were without Rick Nash in their first matchup against the Penguins, presumably because he couldn’t fit through the loading dock.
Kreider – Stepan – Nash
Richards – Brassard – Zuccarello
Hagelin – Boyle – Pouliot
Asham – Moore – Dorsett
Allen – Del Zotto
McDonagh – Girardi
Moore – McIlrath
What To Watch For:
1) The Rangers are only 6-9-1 at the Garden this year. But one of those wins was against the Penguins. In embarrassing fashion. Part of the Rangers’ overall struggles (4-5-1 in their last 10) is an inability to score goals. Their 2.21 goals per game average is 27th in the league. The Penguins score a lot, and traditionall are good against Lundqvist, who will be starting his 7th consecutive game.
2) The Rangers have a decided size advantage on the Penguins, but all these Penguins’ forward callups are very fast. If the Penguins’ defense can exit the puck quickly and not allow the Rangers to establish a forecheck that bottles them up, the Penguins could have a lot of space especially to the outside against a slower Rangers’ defensive corps.
3) Olli Maatta ate Phil Kessel’s lunch all night on Monday. He’s got a tougher assignment, likely facing off with Rick Nash when the Penguins can get that matchup. Vigneault will doubtless look to exploit the younger defensemen by throwing out his top lines against the Penguins bottom pairings. So it will be interesting to see if Dan Bylsma goes with the reactionary immediate change when possible in efforts of shutting Nash down.
Beat the Rangers.