Throughout the season, NBCSN will feature the NHL’s fiercest rivalries on Wednesday nights. Tonight the Pittsburgh Penguins will head to Madison Square Garden for a match against the New York Rangers at 7:30 p.m. ET.
The Pittsburgh Penguins streak might be over, but there’s no doubt that they’re still a dangerous team and that the Rangers desperately need this victory.
The Rangers are two points behind the seventh and eighth place New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders, although the Rangers have played in less games than each of those clubs. The Rangers managed to defeat the Winnipeg Jets, but suffered back-to-back shutout losses prior to that.
To make matters worse for the Rangers, this is one of the few home games remaining in their schedule. Including tonight’s contest, eight of their final 13 games will be played on the road, where they’re 6-9-1 so far this campaign.
There are plenty of areas where the Rangers have lagged behind the Penguins this season, but perhaps the biggest gap has just been simply their respective offenses. On paper the Rangers shouldn’t have that big an issue offensively given the presence of Rick Nash, Marian Gaborik, and Brad Richards. In practice though, the Rangers rank dead last in the NHL in goals per game while Pittsburgh leads the pack.
Even without Sidney Crosby, the Penguins are still dangerous offensively with the likes of Chris Kunitz, James Neal, Evgeni Malkin, and their latest addition, Jarome Iginla.
The Rangers will likely counter with goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who has been dominant this season — except when Pittsburgh is involved. Against the Penguins, Lundqvist has an ugly 4.02 GAA and .865 save percentage in three defeats this season.
Perhaps Ryane Clowe, who the Rangers acquired on Tuesday will be the difference. He should make his Rangers debut tonight, according to the Bergen Record.
Clowe, like the team he joined, has struggled to find the back of the net this season, but he does have five assists in his last eight games. The change of scenery might also be what he needs to end his 34-game (including playoffs) goal-scoring drought.
When the trade deadline passes this afternoon, no major NHL events will stand between us and the end of the regular season. It will be the final push and while the Penguins don’t have a ton left to fight for before the start of the postseason, the Rangers certainly have a ton on the line.
Probable goaltenders: NYR – Lundqvist (15-13-2, 2.19 GAA, .922 SV%) | PIT – Marc-Andre Fleury (18-5-0, 2.18 GAA, .920 SV%)
Top scorers: NYR – Nash (13-17-30, 31 GP) | PIT – Crosby (15-41-56, 36 GP)
New York – Defensemen: Marc Staal (eye), Michael Sauer (concussion)
Pittsburgh – Forwards: Crosby (jaw) Defensemen: Paul Martin (wrist), Kris Letang (toe)