Who: New York Rangers (42-19-5, 89 points, 3rd place Metropolitan Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguns (40-17-10, 90 points, 2nd place Metropolitan Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh, MSG for the visitor feed, ESPN+
Opponent Track: Like the Pens, NYR had a Sunday game against a non-playoff team, pitting them against Buffao. The Rangers quickly scored to make it 2-0 early in the game (flashbacks to Friday’s game!) but the Sabres rallied back to take a 3-2 lead, and eventually OT was required. The Rangers won 5-4 in OT with a K’Andre Miller goal and enter tonight winning two in a row and four of their last five games.
Pens Path Ahead: The Pens finish up their quick two game home-stand tonight and take their final Western conference road trip of the season. Pittsburgh is playing in Minnesota on Thursday night and then meet the mighty Colorado Avalanche for the first time this season on Saturday in Denver. Then the Avs come to Pittsburgh a week from today for a little home-and-home action. Nine days we get the final PIT/NYR game next Thursday in Madison Square Garden. Lots of action here to come so buckle up, baby!
Hidden Stat: The Rangers completed their 22nd comeback win this season on Sunday against Buffalo.
Hidden Stat II: The Pens have won five straight games against the Rangers in the friendly confines of PPG Paints Arena. And Pittsburgh is 7-0-1 vs NYR at home in the last eight matchups in the ‘Burgh. (h/t Pens PR)
Season Series: This is the third PIT/NYR game of the season, with the scheduled finale on April 7th back in Manhattan. Pittsburgh took the first game, a 1-0 home win about a month ago on Feb. 26th. The Rangers protected their home ice by scoring three times very early last Friday and riding it to a 5-1 win.
SBN Counterpart Blog: Blueshirt Banter
—NHL players missing the Olympics sucks for a lot of reasons, but seeing Chris Kreider play for Team USA on the big stage would have been really fascinating. This is a player who is a steady 20ish goal scorer with a career-high of 28 before this season, a sudden explosion at age-30 of now 44 and counting. Would that have continued for the national team? Is this confined just to New York and favorable circumstances with that team and system? Sadly, we probably won’t find out the answers to these questions.
—Vatrano scored twice against Buffalo and also notched a goal against the Pens last week too. The Rangers are probably wishing they traded for him months ago!
Sunday Game Lines
Chris Kreider - Mika Zibanejad - Frank Vatrano
Artemi Panarin - Ryan Strome* - Andrew Copp
Alexis Lafreniere - Filip Chytil - Barclay Goodrow
Tyler Motte - Johnny Brodzinski - Dryden Hunt
Ryan Lindgren/ Adam Fox
K’Andre Miller / Jacob Trouba
Patrik Nemeth/ Braden Schneider
Goalies: Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev
Scratches: Julien Gauthier, Greg McKegg, Ryan Reaves, Justin Braun, Libor Hajek
IR: Kaapo Kakko, Sammy Blais, Kevin Rooney
—Lines have been the same since the Pens last saw NYR a few games ago with a * on Ryan Strome since he left the Buffalo game on Sunday with an injury and did not return. Coach Gerard Gallant said it “wasn’t serious” though, so we’ll see if he’s able to play or if some lines will have to be shaken to replace him.
—The backup goalie Georgiev was the one who played on Sunday in Buffalo, surrendering the four goals in a win. That clears the path for the Pens to see Shesterkin for the third time this season. They’ve scored two total goals on him in the two games so far, which...Yeah, not great. Tonight with 12 forwards and a healthy Malkin back, at least the Ranger goalie will probably have to earn it this time.
Advanced stats matchup
Behold, the Pens’ finishing! It rises from a possible low point of 31st up to 25th in just one game. Albeit, a hell of a game to score 11 goals against Detroit on a 4.16 expectation but that’s how far Pittsburgh has to go just to get out of the bottom quadrant.
And now for the Pens..
Sunday Game Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Evan Rodrigues
Rickard Rakell - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Danton Heinen - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen
Brian Boyle - Teddy Blueger - Radim Zohorna
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Mike Matheson / John Marino
Marcus Pettersson / Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies: Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith
Scratches: Mark Friedman, Brock McGinn (week-to-week, upper body)
IR: Jason Zucker (week-to-week, core surgery), Nathan Beaulieu
—No practice yesterday for the Pens, who catch their breath in the middle of this late March crunch.
Milestone and streak watch
- The Pens are on a four-game home winning streak.
- Sidney Crosby is on a 12-game home point streak.
- Crosby has tied the legendary Luc Robitaille (1,394) for 23rd place in all-time scoring. Next up on Sid’s list is Jari Kurri (1,398) and the moving (but closing) target of Alex Ovechkin, who are currently tied for 21st.
- Crosby’s next point will also get him to 70 on the season for the 12th time in his career, tying the active leaders in 70+ point seasons (Ovechkin, Joe Thornton).
- Evgeni Malkin tied Sergei Fedorov for most assists by a Russian player in the NHL, his next will put him in the top spot.
- Malkin (77) is also now just one game winning goal from tying Jaromir Jagr for first on the team’s all-time GWG spot. Crosby (75) isn’t too far behind.
- Bryan Rust (55) is one point away from tying his career-high in single season points. He has accomplished it in only 45 games so far this season.
- Kris Letang (49) will be looking to break the 50-assist plateau for only the second time in his career, and is getting close to a new personal best (51 in 2015-16).
- Letang (497) is closing in on the 500 career assist milestone as well.
- Speaking of seeking a nice round number, Jeff Carter is now at 799 career points.
- Tristan Jarry picked up the win on Sunday (33rd of the season), tying him with Andrei Vasilevskiy for first in wins this year in the NHL.