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Pittsburgh Penguins @ New York Rangers 1/2/2019: lines, preview, how to watch

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Last game of a road trip for the first game of 2019

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Rangers Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (21-12-6; 48 points, 3rd in Metropolitan Division) @ New York Rangers (17-14-7; 41 points, 5th in Metropolitan Division)

When: 7:00pm

How to Watch: National broadcast on NBCSN

Opponent Track: The Rangers have a little momentum heading into this game, going 3-0-1 in their last four, including a two game winning streak, most recently 2-1 winners against St. Louis on the road on Monday.

Pens Refresh: Six game winning streak for the boys in black and gold.

Season series: This is game #40 of the season for the Pens, but only the first matchup against the Rangers so far. Go figure. The teams will see each other on February 17th, March 25th and the last game of the regular season on April 6th.

SBN Team Counterpart: Blueshirt Banter

Tale of the tape

—The Rangers aren’t a pretty team on spreadsheets. They get outshot and give up a ton of shots overall. Their saving graces are a pretty decent power play and some PDO factors of shooting well and getting a lot of saves at 5v5. With Henrik Lundqvist still performing as an above-average goalie, the latter seems a lot more reliable than the former.

—Would imagine the Pens are probably the only team in the league to be top 10 in both PP, PK plus 5v5 shooting and saves. That’s turning into a pretty well-balanced team all around, with the big demerit that they allow a ton of shots against. But such is probably always going to be life for an offensive-minded team.

Player stats at a glance

via hockey db

—NYR is weird. Are they old? Are they young? Are they trying to win now? Are they building for the future? The answer to all these questions seems to be “yeah, kinda”. In the cap era typically the championship caliber teams (think: CHI, WSH, PIT and maybe now TOR) are the ones that strip down to nothing and get several top-5 picks and turn them into great players and build from there. The Rangers haven’t really embraced a total breakdown to build.

Trade deadline questions

As such, the Rangers have Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello as free agents coming up. Doesn’t make a ton of sense to sign either to market-value deals. And though they’re not in the tank, they are six points from the wild card right now, with a couple teams to climb over. Meaning playoffs aren’t very likely. BSB looks at potential Hayes destinations (with Pittsburgh not among them)

It’s no secret that Kevin Hayes has been playing really well lately, accumulating 16 points in his last 10 games. While it’s unknown how serious the Rangers are in trying to trade the 26 year old center, it’s a strong possibility that he gets dealt at this year’s deadline.

A team acquiring Hayes this season would most likely be to a playoff contender, as his current deal expires at the end of the year. Hayes has done is best work as a center, so with the high price to acquire him, the team trading for him would likely want to keep him down the middle — therefore they’d likely need to have an open top-six center spot.

Cap space should not be much of a factor if the team were only trading for Hayes as a rental, but a team’s long-term cap situation plays a role if they are serious about re-signing him. Coming off a one-year deal and set to become an unrestricted free agent, Hayes won’t come cheap next season so a team pressed up against the cap would have trouble fitting him in.

If the division rivals want to make a deal — which sometimes division rivals don’t always want to do (see the difficulty of getting Mark Streit out of Philly) — the name that makes the most sense for Pittsburgh is probably Zuccarello.

Not sure if the price would be right or intriguing but Zuccarello has been a 50+ point player in the last five seasons. He’s not likely to get there this year, but he’s got good skill and the Pens might need a bit more on the left wing.

Lines (from Monday’s game)

Chris Kreider - Mika Zibanejad - Jesper Fast

Vladislav Namestnikov - Kevin Hayes - Mats Zuccarello

Boo Nieves - Brett Howden - Pavel Buchnevich

Cody McLeod - Ryan Strome - Jimmy Vesey

Marc Staal / Neal Pionk

Brady Skjei / Adam McQuaid

Tony DeAngelo / Kevin Shattenkirk

—With Shattenkirk seeming to peak back in St. Louis, a pretty blah defense all-around.

—Also looks like another team with about three third lines

And now for the Pens

Infographic courtesy of the Penguins

Lines (based off last Monday’s game)

Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Zach Aston-Reese

Dominik Simon - Evgeni Malkin - Patric Hornqvist

Tanner Pearson - Derick Brassard - Phil Kessel

Derek Grant - Matt Cullen - Riley Sheahan

Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang

Olli Maatta / Juuso Riikola

Marcus Pettersson / Jack Johnson

Expected scratches: Bryan Rust (day-to-day injury), Jamie Oleksiak (healthy)

—Could be a possibility Rust can go after a minor injury last weekend, but the team didn’t practice yesterday so we don’t really know yet. Could be the old game time decision. If so, lines could be reshuffled a bit, with Grant likely the odd man out of the lineup tonight if Rust can go.

The Path Ahead

The Pens’ bye week is coming up from January 20th - 27th - but they need to play nine games before they get there, with six on the road including tonight. After this game, the Pens go back home for an every-other-day routine of three home games starting on Friday against Winnipeg, then Sunday against Chicago and next Tuesday against Florida. Then they hit the road for a five game western swing to hit up the three California teams plus Arizona and Vegas before the bye week begins.