Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (34-24-10, 78 points, 4th place Metropolitan Division) @ New York Rangers (39-19-10, 88 points, 3rd place Metropolitan Division)
When: 8:00 p.m. ET
How to Watch: National broadcast on ABC/ESPN+
Opponent Track: The Rangers have claimed victory in four of their last five games (4-0-1) and are riding on a two-game win streak after downing the Capitals and Penguins in the first two contests of a five-game stretch at Madison Square Garden.
Pens Path Ahead: The Penguins are back at PPG Paints Arena on Monday before heading out west to face the Avalanche in Denver and Stars in Dallas in back-to-back games on Wednesday and Thursday.
Season Series: After the Penguins took the first two games with a 3-2 regulation win in December and a 3-2 overtime win last week, the Rangers have the chance to tie up the season series after getting in a victory with that 4-2 win on Thursday.
Getting to know the Rangers
SBN partner blog: Blueshirt Banter
Thursday’s Game Lines
Artemi Panarin - Mika Zibanejad - Vladimir Tarasenko
Chris Kreider - Vincent Trocheck - Patrick Kane
Alexis Lafreniere - Filip Chytil - Kaapo Kakko
Jimmy Vesey - Barclay Goodrow - Tyler Motte
Nikko Mikkola / Adam Fox
K’Andre Miller / Jacob Trouba
Ben Harpur / Braden Schneider
Goalies: Igor Shesterkin (Jaroslav Halak)
Scratches: Ryan Lindgren (day-to-day, upper body)
- Thursday marked the third time the Panarin/Zibanejad/Tarasenko line skated together, and they gave the Penguins fits. Since the trade for Patrick Kane the Rangers have fiddled with that top line a few times, but this combination looks like— for now— it’s a winning one.
“It’s easy to play with Artemi and Mika. Very good players. Play off each other’s games. We understand each other more, like where the guy will be so you don’t have to look around. I’m enjoying playing.” —Vladimir Tarasenko after Thursday’s win over the Penguins, via the New York Post
- In fact, the Rangers’ entire lineup matched up favorably against the Penguins last night. The fourth line with Tyler Motte both gave Pittsburgh trouble last night, and the third “kids” line, which has been quieter as of late, controlled a lot of the play when it was on the ice.
- Top-pairing defenseman Ryan Lindgren missed his eighth straight game last night.
- Flashes of the end of last year’s first round on Thursday, when the Penguins struggled to solve Shesterkin. He has struggled recently but has heated up and has now strung together four straight wins. It feels likely that if he is ready to go again the Rangers will stick him back in net to try and make it five.
- Mike Zibanejad, who took advantage of a Pens defensive breakdown to score a beauty on Thursday, is heating up— after being held off the scoreboard for five games he has three goals in his last two.
- Via Micah Blake McCurdy of hockeyviz, here is a visualization of the playoff implications of last night’s game. The Islanders (with two games in hand) sit tied with the Penguins at 78 points, but the Panthers— side-by-side with the Penguins in games played— are dangerously close to the wild card spot with 75.
And now for the Pens...
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Alex Nylander
Drew O’Connor - Mikael Granlund - Rickard Rakell
Ryan Poehling - Jeff Carter - Josh Archibald
Marcus Pettersson / Kris Letang
Brian Dumoulin / Jan Rutta
P.O. Joseph / Chad Ruhwedel?
Goalies: Tristan Jarry or Casey DeSmith
Scratches: Danton Heinen, Jeff Petry? (upper-body injury, severity unknown), Nick Bonino (out week-to-week, lacerated kidney)
IR: Dmitry Kulikov (out week-to-week, lower-body injury)
- Kris Letang missed Friday’s practice for a maintenance day, while Petry was absent with a lower-body injury. He left Thursday’s game early with an injury (for the second outing in a row, ouch). If both he and Kulikov are out, then that’s Chad Ruhwedel’s music.
Sullivan said while they're trying to win hockey games, they're cognizant of the blue line's workload, which is one reason Letang didn't practice today. They also spoke with the forwards about taking some pressure off of their defense by hanging onto pucks/making good decisions.— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) March 17, 2023
- Tristan Jarry had his best outing in a while on Thursday against the Rangers, even if it wasn’t enough to earn a win. Will the Penguins roll with him again to try and build on that solid performance?
Mike Sullivan said he thought this was Tristan Jarry's best game since coming back from injury. “He was real solid. I thought he kept us in it early. He gave us a chance."— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) March 17, 2023
- Ryan Poehling returned Thursday after missing 15 games with an injury. He skated under nine minutes on the fourth line and registered one shot on goal.
- In a series of milestones two days ago, Guentzel recorded his third 30-goal season, Crosby clinched his 18th straight point-per-game campaign and Rakell marked his 400th career point.