Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (24-12-2, 50 points, 3rd place in the Eastern Division) @ New York Rangers (17-15-5, 39 points, 6th place Eastern Division)
When: 7:00 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 lost their last game on Saturday night to Buffalo, albeit in a shootout and shortly after the Sabres had ended their long losing streak, so that’s perhaps slipped under the surface a bit. Since getting swept by the Pens in a two-game series on March 7/9, NYR has split one win and one loss in every one of their six game series since that point (with some OT/SO results included, and a win when they played Buffalo one time). They’re a bit tough to figure out, they’re capable of beating better teams (they’ve beaten the Caps twice in the past month) but also liable to lose any given game (like...against Buffalo last time out).
Pens path ahead: This is game three of six on a road trip for the Pens (even though they flew home on Saturday and got to be at home for a few days on their break in the schedule). Pittsburgh will play tonight and Thursday in Madison Square Garden against the Rangers...Then the Pens have a back-to-back to play over the river in Newark on Friday night against the Devils, followed by the road trip wrapping up with a Sunday evening game against New Jersey. And then...a glorious three day break from April 12-14 awaits.
Season Series: Pittsburgh is 5-1-0 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. Pittsburgh followed that up with a 5-1 win on March 7th and then a 4-2 victory on March 9th in the Burgh. These two games this week are the final Pens/Rangers games of the season.
Recent History: The Pens have performed really well the Rangers as of late, going 9-1-3 vs. the Blueshirts in the last 12 games. Expand it out further and Pittsburgh is 13-3-3 against NYR in the last 19 contests between the two teams. Ever since “breaking the curse” in 2016, the Pens have really feasted on the New York team that gave them so much trouble in the early 2010’s.
SBN Team Counterpart: Check out Blueshirt Banter for the latest news to know about the Rangers.
Player Stats at a Glance
—The Pens did not see Artemi Panarin in the lineup for New York in last month’s two games, but the Rangers’ best player has returned and returned with a vengeance. Panarin has 18 points (6G+12A) in 12 games since he came back.
—Panarin being back has coincided with Mika Zibanejad getting red hot. It’s crazy to see back in the preview for the 3/7 game that Zibanejad had just two goals and only eight points in 22 games to start his season. He scored against the Pens that night, and has 10 goals in his last 15 games played. Given the way he finished 2019-20 on a goal scoring flurry, Zibanejad is probably the most dangerous streaky scorer in the league. When he’s on, he’s absolutely on. And for the last month, he’s been on for the Rangers.
—Other dangerous Rangers: defenseman Adam Fox 19 has racked up points (2G+17A) in last 14 games, Ryan Strome has 17 points in his last 17 games and Pavel Buchnevich has 14 points in his last 14 games.
—And in the “not so much” category: Alexis Lafreniere has 1G+3A in the last 15 games, Kaapo Kakko has 3G+0A in the same span and K’Andre Miller has 2G+0A, though despite not generating points he’s playing almost 22 minutes a night in the last month and being a plus player with a heavy workload as a rookie.
Chris Kreider - Mika Zibanejad - Pavel Buchnevich
Artemi Panarin - Ryan Strome - Colin Blackwell
Alexis Lafreniere - Filip Chytil - Kaapo Kakko
Vitaly Kravtsov - Kevin Rooney - Phil Di Giuseppe
Ryan Lindgren / Adam Fox
K’Andre Miller / Jacob Trouba
Libor Hajek / Brendan Smith
Announced starting goalie: Igor Shesterkin
Scratches: Brett Howden, Julien Gauthier
—Old pal Jack Johnson is on the taxi squad and out for the season with a sports hernia surgery, if you were curious. So long and goodbye!
—Coach David Quinn said Shesterkin will start and the team will play Kravtsov. Shesterkin is 1-1-1 with a .904 save% and 2.30 GAA in three games against Pittsburgh this season
And now for the Pens..
Yesterday’s practice lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker - Jared McCann - Evan Rodrigues
Zach Aston-Reese - Frederick Gaudreau - Sam Lafferty
Radim Zohorna - Mark Jankowski - Colton Sceviour
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Mike Matheson / Cody Ceci
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Possible starting goalie: ?
Scratches: Juuso Riikola, Chad Ruhwedel, Brandon Tanev
IR: Evgeni Malkin, Mark Friedman, Teddy Blueger, Kasperi Kapanen
Taxi Squad: Yannick Weber, Emil Larmi, Radim Zohorna, Justin Almeida
—It’s just a matter of time before Tanev is back to the IR, perhaps as soon as today to do the ol’ switcheroo with Teddy Blueger (who participated fully in practice yesterday, but only took partial line rushes as fourth line winger, which doesn’t suggest he will play tonight). Mark Friedman also was a full go in practice and should be off IR soon, though who knows when his next game action might be.
—Also, weird but Angello wasn’t skating on a line yesterday, and while he’s been a mainstay in the lineup for a bit now, it looks like he’s on the outs currently. Will Zohorna get back in the lineup? Based on practice yesterday, it looks like it. It’s a weird turn of events for Angello — who didn’t score in the Pens’ last game but had two points (1G+1A) in the prior two games last week. Angello hasn’t taken a penalty in four games and hasn’t made any negative plays with the puck to cost the team any goals against in recent memory, so it’s curious as to why he’s apparently fallen out of favor a bit...Unless he too is dealing with some sort of injury that hasn’t yet been addressed.
—Or, possibly the team just wants to get another look at Zohorna, who slipped out of the lineup recently when more health returned. They do have enough right shot right wingers for the bottom two lines in Lafferty and Sceviour and the current alignment does at least balance the handed-ness of the wingers to keep it a little more simple and not have a RH player on his off-side.
—Tristan Jarry declared himself 100% after practice and should be good to go for whenever the coach wants to use him next. Will that be today, coming off the heels of Casey DeSmith yielding a season-high six goals against last time out? Will be interesting to see. Usually Sullivan has no qualms about playing his starter as much as he can, when he can.
Jake the traveling goal scorer
Jake Guentzel has been highly effective this season on the road. From the Pens PR department:
If there’s one thing that Jake Guentzel is good at, it’s scoring goals. Guentzel tallied his team-leading 16th goal of the season on Saturday night, giving him goals in a career-long six-consecutive road games. Ten of Guentzel’s 16 goals this season have come on the road, which is tied for most in the NHL.
Player Road Goals
Jake Guentzel 10
Tyler Toffoli 10
Sam Reinhart 10
Chris Kreider 10
Mikko Rantanen 10
Seven Players 9
Over his last 14 games, he’s netted a team-high nine goals, and his 17 points during that span are second on the team to Sidney Crosby (21).