Who: New York Rangers (37-19-9, 83 points, 3rd place Metropolitan Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (33-22-10, 76 points, 4th place Metropolitan Division)
When: 4:00 p.m. eastern time
How to Watch: National broadcast on TNT in America, Sportsnet 360 in Canada
Opponent Track: The Rangers are 4-2-0 in the last two weeks, and enter today on a two-game winning streak after getting results in the first two games of their three-game road trip that concludes today (Thursday in Montreal, last night in Buffalo). Like the Penguins, today’s game is a quick turnaround for NY, who played had to work overtime against the Sabres last night before flying into town for this game. Add in losing an hour of sleep with Daylight Saving Time and this game will begin about 19 actual hours after their prior game ended. Not an easy setup for them.
Pens Path Ahead: One more home game on Tuesday when Montreal comes to the Burgh, then the Pens will see these same Rangers two times next week on Thursday and next Saturday (3/18), with both of the games after today being played in Manhattan.
Season Series: As you can tell from above, it’s about to be a heaping helping of Pens/Rangers where they meet up in three of the four meetings of the year in the next week. In the first game of the season, Pittsburgh took a 3-2 victory at PPG Paints back on December 20th. Sidney Crosby scored a goal in the third that would stand up as the game winner, Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust also hit the back of the net and Tristan Jarry stopped 26/28 Ranger shots to pick up the win.
Getting to know the Rangers
SBN partner blog: Blueshirt Banter
Yesterday’s Game Lines
Chris Kreider - Mika Zibanejad - Vladimir Tarasenko
Artemi Panarin - Vincent Trocheck - Patrick Kane
Alexis Lafreniere - Filip Chytil - Kaapo Kakko
Jimmy Vesey - Barclay Goodrow - Tyler Motte
K’Andre Miller / Jacob Trouba
Niko Mikkola / Adam Fox
Ben Harpur / Braden Schneider
Goalies: Igor Shesterkin or Jaroslav Halak
Scratches: Ryan Lindgren (injured)
—Flying close to the sun on the salary cap after picking up Tarasenko, Mikkola and Kane, the Rangers found themselves without enough cap room to ice a full team recently when they had a couple minor injuries and a suspension (Miller) to deal with. They’re back to normal for now, but any sort of 1-2 week injury or less for the rest of the regular season will be make
—All this movement has brought back the “Kid line”. Those high picks have had varying levels of success. Chytil, 23, has established himself this year as a quality all-around player. Lafreniere was famously a healthy scratch for one game and hasn’t quite found his way as much. And it doesn’t seem like there’s that much about Kaapo Kakko, 22, one way or the other.
—Lindgren is getting close to returning and could be a possibility to play this afternoon.
—Unlike Pittsburgh who rested their starter yesterday, New York played Shesterkin against Buffalo last night. Does that mean a (shudder) Jaroslav Halak sighting in Pittsburgh tonight? Let’s point out that Shesterkin has started two times this year in back-to-backs (Oct 29+30 and Feb 25-26), which doesn’t sound like much but is quite a bit more than most his contemporaries these days, so we shall see what the Ranger goalie strategy is for this game. Just because he played yesterday might not mean he’s out today...(But he also played on Thursday, so this would be three games in four days for him, which doesn’t seem like a promising idea..)
—After going score-less in two games, Patrick Kane has a goal in each of the last two games and three points overall in the last two. He’s starting to fit in and get his bearing with his new club as he acclimates from a big shock in changing teams on the fly during a season after such a long career being anchored in Chicago.
—The Rangers are well-balanced with nine double-digit goal scorers for their club and it grows to 11 if you count what Tarasenko and Kane have done overall this year themselves. By comparison, the Pens have seven 10+ goal scorers so far (which counts the departed Brock McGinn) and another in Mikael Granlund’s overall numbers.
—The Rangers don’t have much of a positive reputation about their play at 5v5 and process, but they are somewhat quietly becoming a really good defensive team. Other than Trouba (and now Mikkola) NYR has a ton of young defenders that have been gaining a lot of experience lately and are starting to improve and figure out how to limit shot attempts.
—Shesterkin has taken a step back from last season, by any measure. Would have been about impossible to duplicate his performance from 2021-22 (.935 save, +44 goals saved above average, 71% quality starts — all the best in the NHL). This year his 54% quality start is a hair above league-average, he’s still pretty darn good but no longer as dominant as last year’s display.
And now for the Pens...
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Alex Nylander
Drew O’Connor - Mikael Granlund - Rickard Rakell
Danton Heinen - Jeff Carter - Josh Archibald
Marcus Pettersson / Kris Letang
Brian Dumoulin / Jeff Petry
Dmitry Kulikov / Jan Rutta
Goalies: Tristan Jarry (Casey DeSmith played yesterday)
Scratches: Chad Ruhwedel, P.O. Joseph, Nick Bonino (out week-to-week, lacerated kidney)
IR: Ryan Poehling
—The Pens saved their starting goalie up for the tougher game today against the Rangers, giving backup Casey DeSmith the chance against the Flyers yesterday. That paves the way for Jarry today.
—Granlund was scoreless for his first three games as a Penguin but put up 1G+1A yesterday. How we doin, feelin’ any better about that addition after a strong game or shrugging it off due to opponent?
—Teams usually don’t like to change up after a loss, but geez, Joseph-Ruhwedel as a third pair is probably showing at this point as a better option than Kulikov-Rutta. Doubt that wholesale change will actually be in the cards, but given all the games and little time, why have the defense depth if you’re not going to actually, you know, use it in game situations?
—Looking at the standings, Pittsburgh is seven points behind NYR, with the same games played. Given that there are three head-to-head meetings, the Pens would need to pile up some regulation wins here against NYR in the coming week to have a chance at gaining out of the wild card status. Not impossible, but it’s going to take some serious work. And that work begins (and also maybe could end) depending on the outcome of this game today. Can’t get much bigger than that right now.