When: 7:30 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh, MSG in the NYC area, and NBC Sports everywhere else
Opponent Track: The Rangers are on a three game winning streak, though all the games in the streak have come at the expense of the lowly Devils and Sabres. Still, the NYR offense is clicking, they’ve scored 12 total goals in the last two games against New Jersey, including a 6-3 win yesterday.
Pens path ahead: The Rangers stick around in town and have a rematch with the Pens on Tuesday. At that point Pittsburgh hits the road for their first games this season against Buffalo on Thursday and next Saturday.
Season Series: Pittsburgh is 3-1-0 vs NYR this season. The Pens beat the Rangers 4-3 in the shootout back on January 22nd with Kris Letang notching the deciding goal. On January 24th, Pittsburgh defeated NYR 3-2 when Jake Guentzel scored a goal late in the third period to give the Pens the W. Sidney Crosby scored the OT winner on January 30th to seal a 5-4 win. The Rangers struck back to win 3-1 on February 1st. After this week, the season series is scheduled to be completed on April 6+8 in NYC.
Recent History: The Pens have performed really well the Rangers as of late, going 7-1-3 vs. the Blueshirts in the last 11 games. Expand it out further and Pittsburgh is 11-3-3 against NYR in the last 17 contests between the two teams.
Player Stats at a Glance
—At 13-3 it looks like Kreider is in the running for the Cy Young award this year.
—Pretty wild how Zibanajed scored 41 goals in just 69 games last season and was on such a goal scoring hot streak. He only has 2 goals in 22 games so far in 2020-21.
Alexis Lafreniere - Mika Zibanejad - Pavel Buchnevich
Chris Kreider - Ryan Strome - Kaapo Kakko
Kevin Rooney - Filip Chytil - Julien Gauthier
Brendan Lemieux - Brett Howden - Phil Di Giuseppe
Ryan Lindgren / Adam Fox
K’Andre Miller / Brendan Smith
Jack Johnson / Libor Hajek
Possible starting goalie: Alexandar Georgiev?
Scratches: Artemi Panarin, Igor Shesterkin (injury), Phil Di Guiseppe
IR: Jacob Trouba
—The Rangers have been hit by COVID and injuries. And have had their best player in Panarin on a leave of absence from the team due to his comments about Russian politics. Panarin is said to be somewhat close to returning to playing, but who knows when that will be.
—Trouba is traveling with the team and coach David Quinn expects him to play on NYR’s four game road trip. Doesn’t seem like that will be today, but Trouba could be a possibility for Tuesday.
—It’s a tough situation in goal too, with Shesterkin suffering an injury recently. He was off to a pretty good season, and Georgiev played yesterday. Do the Rangers turn to third string Keith Kinkaid for today on the back-to-back? Or play Georgiev for a second day in a row?
Lafreniere starting to get on track
First overall pick in 2020 Alexis Lafreniere isn’t exactly jumping off the page with his stats to start his NHL career. But he’s gone through some bad luck and has started to turn it around. As written in an interesting article over at Blueshirt Banter:
Just as it seemed Lafrenière’s luck was about to turn around, he had an on-ice shooting percentage hovering around 2 or 3%, Panarin took a leave of absence from the Rangers to deal with the issues surrounding his speaking out against Russian leadership. Once again, Lafrenière found himself moved to a new line, this time finding himself alongside Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich. Now, the rookie found himself on the Rangers’ top line and has built a nifty little point streak with five points in his last six games and points in four straight, including his first two NHL assists, one of which was a highlight feed to set up Strome.
Lafreniere was held without a point yesterday, so updated it’s “just” five points in his last seven games, but he’s certainly starting to produce points in the last few weeks and starting to get the hang of the NHL game and live up to his billing as a top pick.
And now for the Pens..
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jared McCann - Evgeni Malkin - Kasperi Kapanen
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev
Sam Lafferty - Mark Jankowski - Evan Rodrigues
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Mike Matheson / Cody Ceci
Possible starting goalie: Casey DeSmith
Scratches: Chad Ruhwedel, Mark Friedman
IR: Juuso Riikola, Jason Zucker
Taxi Squad: Yannick Weber, Emil Larmi. Frederick Gaudreau, Josh Currie, Anthony Angello
COVID protocol list: Colton Sceviour
—A healthy top-six defense for once! This is actually about as healthy as Pittsburgh will be for a while, really, since Zucker’s injury is believed to be fairly long-term. The Pens need to get in a groove and take advantage of this while it lasts.