Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Rangers

NHL on NBCSN: Rangers host hurting Penguins on Rivalry Night


NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the New York Rangers host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden at 8:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

There’s a good possibility fans might not recognize most of the guys taking the ice for the Pittsburgh Penguins when they face the New York Rangers.

The Pens have nine players on injured reserve and will be without James Neal for one more game due to his suspension for kneeing Boston’s Brad Marchand in the head. Add in Evgeni Malkin missing their game on Monday against Toronto with a lower body injury after being injured last Saturday along with Deryk Engelland having his hearing for hitting Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader today — it’s a mess of a situation.

Even in spite of all that, the Penguins lead the Metropolitan Division by 10 points. Captain Sidney Crosby leads the league in points, Marc-Andre Fleury has been strong all season in goal, and Chris Kunitz gives Crosby a steady linemate to work with. Sure, playing without their top four defensemen is troublesome, but the Penguins keep rolling along.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $500 Fantasy Hockey league that includes Wednesday and Thursday’s NHL games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $150. Starts Wednesday at 7:30pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

That’s bad news for the Rangers as they’ve continued to struggle under new coach Alain Vigneault. At 16-17-1 they’re fifth in the Metropolitan behind both Philadelphia and Carolina. A win over the Pens would vault them back into a tie with the Hurricanes points-wise, but their issues have been many.

Henrik Lundqvist has been off his game most of the season. Injuries have hampered their lineup, although not to the degree they have for the Penguins, and their defense has had its share of woes.

If there are bright spots to be found it’s in the play of forwards Brad Richards, Derek Stepan, and Mats Zuccarello. Those three are tops on the team in points. Rick Nash’s return from a concussion in mid-November has seen him pick up the pace with nine points in 14 games. More consistent play from him would do a world of good, but that could be said about the rest of the team as well.

With the current state of the Penguins and the Rangers’ need to get right, New York could (should?) be looking at tonight’s game as a must-win. As the Pens showed on Monday night against Toronto, it won’t be easy. If the Rangers come out flat, the grumbles in Manhattan from the fans could turn into full-blown growls.

Friday’s loss serves as ‘harsh lesson’ for Blue Jackets

Jasper Fast, Nick Foligno, Henrik Lundqvist
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Late in the third period of Friday’s game against the New York Rangers, things were looking good for Columbus.

Brandon Saad, who the team acquired from Chicago this off-season, scored his first goal of the season to give his team a 2-1 lead with under four minutes remaining in the contest.

Unfortunately for the Jackets, that’s as good as it would get.

The Rangers responded with three unanswered goals from Oscar Lindberg, Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello to spoil Columbus’ home opener.

“When something like that happens at the end, I think we’re gonna be a better team because of it,” defenseman Ryan Murray told reporters after the game. “It’s a harsh lesson, but it’s a good one.

Luckily for Columbus, they won’t have to wait very long to try and get their revenge.

The Blue Jackets and Rangers will finish off their home-and-home series at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, which might not be such a bad thing for Columbus.

“It’s good that we get another chance tomorrow,” Saad said after Friday’s game. “We were high on emotions (after the go-ahead goal) and they scored and it took the wind out of our sails, but we have to keep playing. We have to learn to keep doing our thing, regardless of the score.”



Kings GM says Mike Richards went into ‘a destructive spiral’

Mike Richards

The Los Angeles Kings may owe Mike Richards money until 2031 (seriously), but in settling his grievance, the team and player more or less get to turn the page.

Not before Kings GM Dean Lombardi shares his sometimes startling perspective, though.

Lombardi has a tendency to be candid, especially in the press release-heavy world of sports management. Even by his standards, his account of Richards’ “destructive sprial” is a staggering read from the Los Angeles Times’ Lisa Dillman.

“Without a doubt, the realization of what happened to Mike Richards is the most traumatic episode of my career,” Lombardi said in a written summation he provided to the Los Angeles Times. “At times, I think that I will never recover from it. It is difficult to trust anyone right now – and you begin to question whether you can trust your own judgment. The only thing I can think of that would be worse would be suspecting your wife of cheating on you for five years and then finding out in fact it was true.”

Lombardi provides plenty of eyebrow-raising statements to Dillman, including:

  • He believed he “found his own Derek Jeter” in Richards, a player who “at one time symbolized everything that was special about the sport.”
  • Lombardi remarked that “his production dropped 50 percent and the certain ‘it’ factor he had was vaporizing in front of me daily.”
  • The Kings GM believes that he was “played” by Richards.

… Yeah.

Again, it’s a powerful read that you should soak in yourself, even if you’re unhappy with the way the Kings handled the situation.

Maybe the most pressing of many lingering questions is: will we get to hear Richards’ side of the story?