It's going to be a tough test for the Rangers tonight, and here's what they need to do to win.
Convert Your Chances: The Penguins are a high-octane team with a deadly offense. The Rangers need to try to put as much space between themselves and Pittsburgh as fast as they can. The Penguins will make mistakes in the defense zone and, when they do, the Rangers need to make sure they make them pay.
Shut Sidney Crosby Down: Have we mentioned that Crosby is back? We have? OK, sorry. Yes, Crosby's return is getting a ton of attention around the league, and for good reason: He has nine points in his four games back. Crosby is a perfect example of a dual-threat player since he can both score and dish the puck. It's only natural to keep your eyes on Crosby when he's in the defensive zone, but the Rangers' defense needs to watch everyone else too.
Join me after the jump for more keys and the Rangers' official pre-game notes.
Get The Garden Going: After a 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers Friday, Madison Square Garden should be rocking for the team's second divisional matchup in as many games. The Rangers need to use the home ice advantage to help boost them forward against a good team. Get the Garden going early and often and it will be a tough place for the Penguins to try and get a victory.
King Among Men: Henrik Lundqvist needs to be on his game tonight. The Penguins will get chances and it's imperative that Lundqvist shuts them down when they happen. Lundqvist gets up for every game he players, but he generally steps up even more when playing big-time opponents. The Rangers might need Lundqvist early and often in this one, but they need to take care of him as well.
Rangers' official pre-game notes below:
* All information through NHL games on Nov. 27
The Rangers will face-off against the Pittsburgh Penguins tomorrow at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m.), in an Atlantic Division matchup. The Blueshirts currently rank third in the Atlantic Division standings, and sixth in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 12-5-3 (27 pts). The Rangers enter the contest having defeated the Philadelphia Flyers, 2-0, on Saturday at Madison Square Garden, to extend their home winning streak to six games. New York has now won their last two games, having completed a sweep of their back-to-back set against Washington and Philadelphia. The Penguins enter the contest with a 14-6-4 (32 pts) record to rank first in the Eastern Conference, and have lost five of their last seven games on the road (2-4-1). Following tomorrow's contest, the Rangers will face-off against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday, Dec. 1, at RBC Center (7:00 p.m.), to begin a two-game Southeast road trip.
RANGERS PRACTICE SCHEDULE:
Prior to tomorrow's contest, the Rangers will have an optional morning skate at 10:30 a.m. at the MSG Training Center. Head Coach John Tortorella will be available to the media at 5:20 p.m. in the Press Conference Room, located on the fifth floor of Madison Square Garden.
* Schedule and availability subject to change
· TV: MSG Network
7:00 p.m. - Rangers Pre-Game Show with Al Trautwig
7:30 p.m. - Rangers vs. Penguins
Broadcasters: Sam Rosen (Play-By-Play), Joe Micheletti (Analyst), John Giannone (In-Game Reporter)
· Radio: 1050 ESPN Radio and newyorkrangers.com
7:00 p.m. - Rangers Pre-Game Show
7:30 p.m. - Rangers vs. Penguins
Broadcasters: Kenny Albert (Play-By-Play), Dave Maloney (Analyst)
RANGERS vs. PENGUINS:
· All-Time: 115-97-23-8 overall (64-46-9-3 at home; 51-51-14-5 on the road)
· 2011-12: Tonight is the first of six meetings this season, and the first of three at Madison Square Garden.
· Last Season: New York was 4-1-1 overall, with a 1-1-1 mark at home. The Rangers power play was 7-22 (31.8%) in the season series, while the penalty kill was 20-22 (90.9%). New York out-scored Pittsburgh, 21-15, including a 10-4 margin in the third period and overtime. Ryan Callahan led the Rangers with five goals, nine points, four power play goals and three game-winning goals in six games, while Brandon Dubinsky tallied a team-high, six assists in the season series. Henrik Lundqvist was 4-1-1 with a 2.29 GAA and .926 Sv%.
· The Rangers have registered at least one point in seven of their last eight meetings with Pittsburgh, posting a record of 5-1-2 over the span
· New York has won their last two games against Pittsburgh, having out-scored the Penguins, 10-5, in those contests
· New York ranks 15th with a 6-1-1 (13 pts) record at home; Pittsburgh ranks 10th with a 6-5-2 (14 pts) mark on the road
· The Rangers have posted a 2-1-0 record vs. Atlantic Division opponents; the Penguins are 4-0-0 vs. the Atlantic Division
· Henrik Lundqvist has posted a 20-13-5 record with a 2.41 GAA and two shutouts in 38 career regular season games vs. Pittsburgh; Martin Biron is 13-15-3-2 with a 2.98 GAA and two shutouts in 33 career regular season games vs. the Penguins
· Brad Richards leads the Rangers with 22 assists and 28 points in 27 career regular season games vs. Pittsburgh; Marian Gaborik has tallied eight goals and 17 points in 18 career regular season games vs. the Penguins
· Pittsburgh lists one former Ranger on their roster: Pascal Dupuis (2006-07)
· Power Play: The Rangers tallied one goal in two power play opportunities (3:57) on Saturday vs. Philadelphia, and are 2-7 (28.6%) in their last two games. New York ranks 23rd overall (11-81, 13.6%) and 11th at home (7-36, 19.4%). The Rangers are 1-7 (5:25) in five-on-three situations (last - 11/23 at FLA), and 0-4 (3:46) when four-on-three (last - 11/3 vs. ANA). Shorthanded goals allowed (0).
· Penalty Killing: The Blueshirts held the Flyers scoreless in two shorthanded situations (4:00) on Saturday at MSG. New York ranks 10th overall (69-81, 85.2%) and third at home (21-23, 91.3%). The Rangers are 2-3 (1:16) in three-on-five situations (last - 11/05 vs. MTL), and 0-1 (1:17) when three-on-four (last - 10/7 at LAK). Shorthanded goals for (1): 10/20 at CGY (Prust).
· Four-on-Four: New York did not tally/yield a goal in two four-on-four situations (4:00) on Saturday vs. Philadelphia. The Rangers are plus-three in 28 four-on-four situations (49:13), and even in one three-on-three situation (0:01). Four-on-four goals for (3): 10/18 at VAN (Gaborik); 10/20 at CGY (McDonagh); 10/27 vs. TOR (Girardi). Four-on-four goals allowed (0).
The Rangers are scheduled to play 14 back-to-back sets this season. New York has posted a record of 2-0-1 (1-0-0 at home, 1-0-1 on the road) in the first game of the set, and are 2-0-1 (2-0-0 at home, 0-0-1 on the road) in the second game. Since 2009-10, New York is 23-8-3 in the back-end of back-to-back sets, including an 11-3-1 mark at MSG and 12-5-2 on the road over the span. Henrik Lundqvist has started on consecutive days 56 times in his career, posting a record of 35-14-7 with a 1.82 GAA, .935 Sv% and six shutouts in the second game. The Rangers fourth back-to-back set will be on Dec. 22-23 vs. the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers, with both games at Madison Square Garden.
PERFECT IN PITTSBURGH
The Rangers completed last season's series against Pittsburgh with a 3-0-0 record at CONSOL Energy Center, having out-scored the Penguins, 12-5, in those games. It was the first time the Blueshirts swept the season series in Pittsburgh since 1996-97 (2-0-0), and the first time since 1973-74 that a Rangers team won three games at Pittsburgh in the same season (3-0-0). New York has won each of their last four games in Pittsburgh, dating back to a 3-2 overtime win on Feb. 12, 2010.
HOME SWEET HOME
The Rangers enter tonight's contest with a six-game home winning streak, dating back to Oct. 31 vs. San Jose. New York has out-scored their opponents, 22-7, during the streak, having held the opposition to one goal or less in four of the six games. The Blueshirts' power play is 5-29 (17.2%) over the span, while their penalty kill is 14-15 (93.3%). The Rangers' 6-1-1 start through eight games at Madison Square Garden is their best start at home since they posted a record of 6-1-1 through eight home games to begin the 1992-93 season. New York began that season with a 7-1-1 mark through nine games at MSG.
THE PUCK STOPS HERE
The Blueshirts lead the league in fewest total goals against, allowing 41 goals through 20 games, and rank second with a 2.05 GAA. Henrik Lundqvist has posted a record of 9-4-3 with a 2.05 GAA, .935 Sv% and two shutouts, while Martin Biron is 3-1-0 with a 1.68 GAA, .937 Sv% and one shutout. Rangers goaltenders have combined for a league-best, .934 Sv%. Lundqvist ranks fifth in the NHL in Sv%, ninth in GAA and is tied for sixth in shutouts.
IN THE BLACK
The Blueshirts rank third in the NHL with a plus-15 rating while skating at even strength. 23 of the 27 players who have skated for the Rangers this season have posted a plus or even rating. Ryan McDonagh leads the team and is tied for 11th in the NHL with a plus-12 rating. In the league standings, New York ranks fifth with a plus-13 goal differential.
The Rangers have tallied the game's first goal in 12 of their 20 contests this season, posting a record of 11-1-0 in those games. Their .917 winning percentage when scoring first ranks second in the NHL, while their 11 wins are tied for first in the league.
New York has seen nine new faces in their lineup during the 2011-12 season - Tim Erixon* (10/7 at LAK), Brad Richards (10/7 at LAK, one assist), Mike Rupp (10/7 at LAK), Jeff Woywitka (10/15 at NYI), Brendan Bell (10/22 at EDM), Andre Deveaux (10/31 vs. SJS), Anton Stralman (11/23 at FLA), Carl Hagelin* (11/25 at WSH, one assist), John Mitchell (11/25 at WSH, one assist). *NHL debut
COUNTDOWN TO 2,500 WINS
The Rangers are currently four wins shy of 2,500 wins, having won 2,496 games all-time in franchise history.
· The Rangers have the fewest regulation losses (five) in the NHL
· New York is 4-1-0 when leading after the first period, and 7-0-1 when leading after the second
· The Blueshirts are the only team in the NHL who are undefeated when out-shooting their opponents, posting a 6-0-0 mark in those contests
· The Rangers are 7-0-0 all-time in games when Brandon Prust is assessed a fighting major in the opening two minutes
· Rookie Carl Hagelin notched his first career goal on Saturday vs. Philadelphia, and has now recorded two points (one goal, one assist) in two career games
· Henrik Lundqvist is 7-1-0 with a 1.74 GAA, .942 Sv% and one shutout during the month of November
· Lundqvist posted his 40th career shutout overall on Saturday vs. Philadelphia (37 regular season, 3 playoff)
· Marian Gaborik has tallied 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in the last 13 games
· Derek Stepan has recorded 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in the last 12 games
· Ryan Callahan has tallied 12 points (six goals, six assists) in the last 12 games, with seven points (two goals, five assists) in the last six
· Ryan McDonagh has recorded five assists and a plus-11 rating in the last nine games
· Dan Girardi has recorded 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in the last 14 games, with three assists in the last two
· Brad Richards has registered 11 points (seven goals, four assists) in the last 12 games, with six points (four goals, two assists) in the last six
· Artem Anisimov has tallied eight points (one goal, seven assists) in the last nine games
· Rangers' prospect Christian Thomas is one of 41 players invited to participate in Canada's National Junior Team selection camp (Dec. 10-14) for the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship
MILESTONES IN SIGHT:
· Erik Christensen: 7 assists from 100th NHL career
· Steve Eminger: 8 points from 100th NHL career
· Marian Gaborik: 5 assists from 300th NHL career; 7 goals from 300th NHL career
· Dan Girardi: 5 assists from 100th NHL career
· Wojtek Wolski: 1 game from 400th NHL career; 9 goals from 100th NHL career
MILESTONES RECENTLY ACHIEVED:
· Derek Stepan: 100th career NHL game (11/23 at FLA)
· Carl Hagelin: 1st career NHL game; 1st career NHL assist/point (11/25 at WSH)
· Carl Hagelin: 1st career NHL goal (11/26 vs. PHI)
· Marc Staal (concussion, IR on 10/5) - 20
· Mike Rupp (knee, 10/24) - 13
· Wojtek Wolski (groin, 11/3) - 9
Total Man-Games Lost: 51
· Nov. 24 - Recalled forward Carl Hagelin from Connecticut (AHL)
· Nov. 24 - Recalled forward John Mitchell from Connecticut (AHL)