The Pittsburgh Penguins (4-3-0) look to win their third game in a row on Tuesday as they host the struggling New York Rangers (2-4-1). The puck drops at 7PM, and will be aired on the Versus network. The Penguins have gained momentum in their last two outings with wins against the Carolina Hurricanes and the Washington Capitals. They will be looking to build on that momentum as they take on the Rangers, who are in last place in the Atlantic Division and 27th overall in the league. The game will mark the first NHL career meeting between Penguins’ 19-year old Jordan Staal, and his 20-year old brother Marc Staal, a rookie defenseman for New York. Marc is the 3rd Staal to be actively playing in the NHL, with Jordan’s other brother Eric playing for the Carolina Hurricanes. Jordan Staal will be looking to get his game going after finally ditching the monkey and netting his first goal in Saturday’s game.
The New York Rangers come to town having lost their last 3 games and having scored a league low 13 goals in 7 games. They are also looking for their first road win (0-3-1) in this, their 3rd consecutive road game. The Rangers’ offense is struggling despite a couple of big name, big dollar summer acquisitions in centers Chris Drury and Scott Gomez. Gomez has struggled early with 3 points (2G, 1A) in 7 games. Drury has fared better with 6 points (1G, 5A), but is off his pace of the past two seasons for goals. Former Penguin Jaromir Jagr is also in a drought with just 1 goal, his lowest total in the first seven games of any of his 17 seasons. Jagr, who has gone scoreless in 3 of his last 4 visits to Pittsburgh, has 29 points (15G, 14A) in 28 games against the Pens since they traded him to the Capitals. Another former Penguin, Martin Straka, will miss the game with a broken finger that he sustained in Saturday’s shootout loss to Boston.
To their credit, the Rangers have only given up 16 goals this season. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist given New York the ability to stay in games this season, allowing 3+ goals only once in 7 starts. He is 7-3-3 with a 2.26 goals-against average in 13 starts against Pittsburgh. “Henrik’s been great all year,” said Gomez, “that’s not the area we have to worry about.” With just 13 goals on the season, offense is where the Rangers need a turnaround having gone scoreless in 15 of 21 periods. We suspect the current slump is only temporary as the Rangers’ arsenal of offensive talent is just too good to keep down. If they can pull out of the slump, and keep their defensive game intact, they will be a force to reckon with.
Coming off the win in Washington on Saturday night, the Penguins will be playing the first of 3 consecutive games at the Mellon Arena. The Penguins are looking for their first 3-game consecutive win streak since March 2007. The team is focused on taking one game at a time. “I don’t think we can afford to look too far ahead,” said center Sidney Crosby, “We’ve made some good steps here the past couple of games. We have to build off it.” Crosby has fared well with 20 points (8G, 12A) in 15 career games against the Rangers. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has also found success of late against the Rangers, going 6-0-2 with a 2.31 GAA in his last 8 games against New York. The hope is that Fleury will build off from his first good performance against the Capitals, in which he only allowed 1 goal in on 31 shots. Prior to that game, we was averaging 4 GAA. Pittsburgh won last season’s series 5-1-2, going 3-0-1 at home.
Going head-to-head, the Penguins definitely have the advantage in goals, scoring an average 3.3 goals per game to the Rangers 1.9. However, the Rangers have a similar advantage in goals against with a 2.1 versus the Penguins’ 3.4. The Pens power play has scored a goal in each game this contibuting to a 22% effectiveness on the man advantage. The Rangers have only been able to convert on 13.6% of their power play opportunities. New York’s penalty kill has an 87.2% effectiveness versus the Penguins 81.8%.
NHLPens.com Prediction: I am hoping the Penguins can keep the sleeping lion in its den for this one, and keep the Rangers off the scoreboard. With Marc-Andre Fleury’s confidence building game against the Caps, I think he will rise to the occasion and get by with a little help from the improving defensive play of the Penguins (despite the fact that they still have a lot of improvement to go). The Penguins offense will look to rebound from the low scoring affair in DC, but will be thwarted in making an offensive breakout by the play of Lundqvist and the Rangers’ defense. I am predicting a Penguins win by a score of 3-2 after an OT and shootout. Likely goal scorers in regulation for the Penguins include Evgeni Malkin, Maxime Talbot. I call Sidney Crosby to score the game winner in the shootout, with Marc-Andre Fleury building his confidence further with a perfect shootout shutout.
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