New York Rangers 29-11-4 (62 points, currently 1st in the East)
125 goals for, 90 goals against
Last 10 games: 7-3-0
Pens’ record vs. NYR in Season Series: 0-2-0 (Rangers won 3-1 on January 6, NYR won 4-3 back on November 29)
Leading Scorer: Marian Gaborik- 36 points in 44 games (23 goals, 13 assists), 20 PIMs, +11
-Gaborik's speed and skill make him one of the most dangerous forwards in the game. The Slovak sniper has a very solid 19 points (9 goals, 10 assists) in 20 career games against the Penguins.
Unsung Stud: Michael Del Zotto- 44 gp, 23p (5g + 18a) 24 PIMs, +22
--Say what you will about plus/minus, but it does measure at its core being on the ice for goals for/against. No Ranger has a better mark this year than Del Zotto, who has rebounded adequately from a sophomore slump season last year. Del Zotto is a smooth skating defenseman with a great first pass, and he’s now gaining experience of how to defend NHL level forwards while he's in his own end. Guys like Marc Staal and all-star Daniel Girardi will garner more attention from the media, but keep an eye on how Pittsburgh's forecheck works against Del Zotto.
SB Partner blog: Blueshirt Banter
The Good: There's a lot to like for the Rangers right now. Defensively, they're a juggernaut, surrendering very few goals with their team defensive philosophy and the ever-stingy Henrik Lundqvist manning the net. Offensively, free agent pickup Brad Richards has added that playmaking center NY needed to pair with Gaborik to form a legit top-line duo. Captain Ryan Callahan is on his way to a career year in goals and assists.
The Bad: Lately it's been feast or famine for the Blueshirts. In the past four games (record 2-2) the combined scores in their wins was 6-0, but in their two losses the score was a 7-1 deficit. Also, when the owner is making comments about getting close to Stanley Cup territory and edging into Leonsis-land, you have to wonder how that will affect the room.
Old Friends: Everyone loves Mike Rupp for being a cool dude and mocking Jaromir Jagr (even though, quizzically Rupp also left the Penguins to sign a better deal with a hated division rival…which is the same thing that Jagr and Max Talbot did and both of them have been much more derided for their actions…) Rupp has 4 goals, 0 assists in 22 games this season that has been interrupted by a knee surgery. Ruslan Fedotenko has 13 points (6g + 7a) in 43 games and old friend Erik Christensen was recently waived and is back in the AHL.
Fight Watch: Rupp, Brandon Prust…..Deryk Engelland, Craig Adams
-With Arron Asham (illness) expected to miss the game, the fight card takes a bump. Still, on the road in a heated rivalry game, it wouldn't be a surprise at all to see tensions boil over and the gloves get dropped.
Hidden Stat: The Rangers are second in the league in blocked shots, and lead in the league in hits. Individually, they have eight players with 70 or more hits and nine players with at least 30 blocked shots. This is a physical team that is willing to pay the price of contact. By comparison, the Pens have five players with 70+ hits and seven with 30 blocked shots so far this season.
Hidden Stat Part II: 20 of Marian Gaborik's 22 goals have come in the 2nd or 3rd periods of games. You could look at this that he doesn't start fast, but with 12 goals and 1 assist in 3rd periods this year, the Pens better realize that Gaborik is probably pulling the trigger on shots late in the game.
PensBurgh 3 Keys:
1 - Welcome back Kris? - Word is defenseman Kris Letang could make his return from a concussion tonight, he took the morning skate in his usual spot with Brooks Orpik and on the top PP unit. The Pens could surely use his skating and puck moving ability against the Conference leading Rangers. And if Letang has any doubts about his game-readiness in his return from a concussion he surely will be tested with a hit or two from the physical Blueshirt team.
2- Score the first goal. As pointed out above, the Rangers last two wins have been via shutout. Once they get a lead, especially at home, they can clamp down defensively and really choke the life out of a game. For the Pens, especially with a depleted lineup, getting that first goal will be huge. Madison Square Garden is a tough place to have to pull a comeback- the Rangers are 18-0-2 this year when leading after the second period. Tonight's not a night where it's OK to be trailing.
3- Secondary scoring. In the current three-game winning streak, James Neal (3g, 1a) and Evgeni Malkin (5g, 2a) have had a point in nine of the 12 total goals the Pens have scored. While it's wonderful the top players are red-hot, that's not sustainable for them to carry the team.
The Pens could really use someone not named Neal or Malkin to step up and put the puck in the net. Notably, Matt Cooke (0g, 1a in his last 15 games), Pascal Dupuis (0g, 1a in last 9 games), Dustin Jeffrey (0g, 0a in four games back from knee rehab), Tyler Kennedy (1g, 0a in 8 games) and Steve Sullivan (1g, 1a in his last 7) are all players in production.