The Pittsburgh Penguins (8-10-1) play host to the surging New York Rangers (11-7-1) tonight in another Atlantic Division battle. The Rangers are looking for their 4th consecutive road win after beating the Leafs, Devils and Flyers all on the road over the last 7 days. The Penguins will be looking to add a second consecutive win at home after stopping a 4-game winless streak on Thursday by beating the Islanders 3-2.
After getting off to a slow start, the New York Rangers have been surging and are currently tied with the Flyers for 1st place in the Atlantic with 23 points. The Rangers won just 4 of 11 games in October with 19 goals for and 22 goals against. They have turned it around in November, however, having won 7 of 8 games (including 3 on the road), and have scored 23 goals while giving up just 13. The Rangers were 0-5-1 on the road before last Saturday’s 3-2 shootout win over Toronto. Since then, they have beaten the Devils and the Flyers on the road, ending the Flyers’ 6-0-0 home start. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has played extremely well and is near the top of the league with a 1.71 GAA and 0.935 save percentage. He has 4 shutouts in 18 games and has stopped 8 of 9 shots on goal in three shootout games. Lundqvist has started all but 1 of the Rangers’ games, and has logged the most minutes in the Eastern Conference. Lundqvist has had to be good as the Rangers offense didn’t really get their wheels rolling until their win against the Penguins on November 8th. Brendan Shanahan leads the team with 6 goals, and Jaromir Jagr leads with 17 points (4G, 13A).
Pittsburgh has struggled for consistency all season long and has had trouble keeping the puck out of their own net, giving up 58 goals in 19 games. The Penguins have alternated between goaltenders Marc-Andre Fleury (3.43 GAA/12 games) and Dany Sabourin (2.18 GAA/7 games). Fleury, who hadn’t started a home game in nearly three weeks, was in net for the win against the Islanders on Thursday. “I was a little nervous at the beginning,” Fleury said. “I hadn’t been playing in Pittsburgh for a while, so I was a little excited. But things went well, the guys got some goals, we got the lead, so that worked to relax me.” The Penguins have also had little offense outside of Evgeni Malkin (12-game point streak), Sidney Crosby (18-game point streak) and Sergei Gonchar. “We want to contribute and it’s always nice to win, so if you can do that and win, it’s great,” Crosby said. “But for us, we have a job to produce.” In the win against the Isles, big Georges Laraque got the unexpected game winning goal and helped boost the spirit of the young Penguins. The Penguins need offensive contributions from their other forwards as well. Veterans Mark Recchi and Darryl Sydor were healthy scratches against the Islanders, and that enabled Tyler Kennedy and Kris Letang to bring some needed energy to the team. Although they didn’t score, the two young players energized the team and played well.
Going head-to-head, the Penguins have the advantage in goals scored and on the power play. Offensively, the Penguins have averaged 2.7 goals per game while the Rangers have mustered just 2.1 goals per game. Defensively, however, the Rangers are 1st in the league giving up just 1.8 goals per game. The Penguins defensive game has been much less effective giving up an average 3 goals per game. The Penguins offense has cashed in on the power play with a 21.2% effectiveness while the Rangers have struggled at 15.3%. On the penalty kill, the Rangers rank 4th in the league at 89.7% while the Penguins have been 82.4% effective. Sidney Crosby has 22 points in 17 career games against the Rangers. Jaromir Jagr has 30-points (15G, 15A) in 30 games against the Penguins. The teams have split the 2 games played this season, with each winning on its home ice. New York has lost 3-straight and 5 of its last 6 played in Pittsburgh.
- VIDEO: Click Here for 11/17/07 Pre-Game Press Conference w/Michel Therrien
- VIDEO: Click Here for 11/17/07 Pre-Game Locker Room Interview w/Sidney Crosby
- VIDEO: Click Here for 11/16/07 Post Practice Locker Room Interview w/Sidney Crosby
- VIDEO: Click Here for 11/15/07 Post Game Press Conference w/Michel Therrien
- VIDEO: Click Here for 11/15/07 Post Game Locker Room Interviews w/Sidney Crsoby, Georges Laraque, Marc-Andre Fleury and Kris Letang
NHLPens.com Keys to the Game: The Penguins will have to springboard off from the momentum they gained in their 3-2 win over the Isles and come out on fire. They will need to overload the Rangers defense and put a lot of pucks on Henrik Lundqvist to try and break the league’s leading defensive juggernaut. The Penguins will need to use their speed in the offensive zone to create chances and draw penalties. Defensively, the Penguins need a good night in goal by Marc-Andre Fleury, who should get the nod after his last performance. Given the stingey defense of the Rangers, the Penguins will need a near perfect night in goal.
NHLPens.com Prediction: I predict a Penguins win against the Rangers by a score of 3-2. Most likely goal scorers for the Penguins include Evgeni Malkin, Jarkko Ruutu and Sergei Gonchar. I predict that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will keep their point streaks alive, with Crosby getting 2 assists.