Rangers Vs. Penguins: Keys To The Game

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 05: (L-R) Brad Richards #19 and Marian Gaborik #10 of the New York Rangers celebrate a third period goal against the Florida Panthers at Madison Square Garden on January 5, 2012 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Panthers 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The New York Rangers are fresh off a 3-2 overtime victory over the Florida Panthers at Madison Square Garden Thursday night. Tonight, the Rangers will try and continue their hot streak against the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road.

Here's what the Rangers need to do to get their 9th win in 10 games.

Keep It Simple Early: The Rangers are coming off a game last night, so they're going to be a tired team. That doesn't mean they can't come out with energy and purpose, but keeping things simple should help the Rangers control the tempo of the game in the opening minutes.

Keep The Crease Clean: Henrik Lundqvist is usually a very busy man during Rangers-Penguins matchups. Tonight will, in all likelihood, be no different. The Rangers' defenders have to make sure the Penguins aren't screening Lundqvist, and keep the opposition away from the crease. Yes, the Penguins have the talent (even without Sidney Crosby) to snipe, but they also have players who can put the puck into the net from in close.

Join me after the jump for more.

Convert On The Power Play: The Penguins are a very good hockey team. They can score with just about anyone in this league, even with the injuries they have sustained. That's why the Rangers have to make their chances count when they get the man advantage. An early lead will do much to silence the crowd and keep the Penguins out of the game.

Rangers official pregame notes below.

NEW YORK RANGERS at PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

Friday, Jan. 6, 7:00 p.m.
CONSOL Energy Center - Pittsburgh, PA
Rangers: 25-9-4 (54 pts)
Penguins: 21-13-4 (46 pts)


* All information through NHL games on Jan. 5

TOMORROW'S GAME:
The Rangers will face-off against the Pittsburgh Penguins tomorrow at CONSOL Energy Center (7:00 p.m.; TV: MSG 2; Radio: 970 The Apple), to conclude their back-to-back set. The Blueshirts currently sit atop the Eastern Conference standings, and rank first in the league overall, with a record of 25-9-4 (54 pts). The Rangers enter the contest having defeated the Florida Panthers, 3-2, in overtime last night at Madison Square Garden to extend their winning streak to three games, and have won eight of their last nine games. New York has posted a record of 22-6-2 since Oct. 29, after beginning the season with a 3-3-2 mark. The Penguins enter the contest with a 21-13-4 (46 pts) record to rank sixth in the Eastern Conference, and have lost their last two games. Following tomorrow's contest, the Rangers will face-off against the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday, Jan. 10, at Madison Square Garden (7:00 p.m.), in their first of four games in six days.

RANGERS PRACTICE SCHEDULE:
Prior to tomorrow's contest, the Rangers' morning skate is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. at CONSOL Energy Center. Head Coach John Tortorella will be available to the media at 11:45 a.m.
* Schedule and availability subject to change

RANGERS vs. PENGUINS:
* All-Time: 116-97-23-8 overall (65-46-9-3 at home; 51-51-14-5 on the road)
* 2011-12: Tonight is the second of six meetings this season, and the first of three at CONSOL Energy Center. New York is 1-0-0 overall following a 4-3 win on Nov. 29 at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers tallied four goals in the second period, including two on the power play. Brad Richards led all skaters with three points (one goal, two assists), and Henrik Lundqvist made 24 saves in the win.
* Last Season: New York was 4-1-1 overall, with a 3-0-0 mark on the road. 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 eight of their last nine meetings with the Penguins, posting a record of 6-1-2 over the span
* The Blueshirts have won their last three meetings with the Penguins, having out-scored Pittsburgh, 14-8, during the streak
* New York ranks second with a 13-6-2 (28 pts) record on the road; Pittsburgh ranks 17th with an 11-4-2 (24 pts) mark at home
* The Rangers have posted an 8-1-0 record vs. Atlantic Division opponents; the Penguins are 5-4-0 vs. the Atlantic Division
* Henrik Lundqvist has posted a 21-13-5 record with a 2.42 GAA and two shutouts in 39 career regular season contests 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 24 assists and 31 points in 28 career regular season contests vs. Pittsburgh; Marian Gaborik has tallied 19 points, including a team-high nine goals, in 19 career regular season games vs. the Penguins
* New York lists three former Penguins on their roster: Erik Christensen (2005-06 - 2007-08); Ruslan Fedotenko (2008-09 - 2009-10); Mike Rupp (2009-10 - 2010-11)
* Pittsburgh lists one former Ranger on their roster: Pascal Dupuis (2006-07)

SPECIAL TEAMS:
The Rangers rank seventh in the NHL with a plus-six rating on special teams [(PPG+SHG)-(PPGA+SHGA)]. New York is 13-68 (19.1%) with the man advantage in the last 20 games. The Blueshirts' penalty kill has held their opponent scoreless in each of their last five games (12-12, 100.0%), and are 37-41 (90.2%) with four shorthanded goals in the last 14 contests. The Rangers are tied for third in the NHL with five shorthanded goals. The Blueshirts have posted a record of 15-1-2 in games when tallying a power play goal, and are 17-4-2 when holding their opponent scoreless on the power play.
* Power Play: The Rangers tallied one goal in three power play attempts (4:37) last night vs. Florida. New York ranks 20th overall (22-142, 15.5%) and 29th on the road (7-69, 10.1%). The Rangers are 2-12 (8:51) in five-on-three situations (last – 12/23 vs. PHI), and 0-4 (3:46) when four-on-three (last – 11/3 vs. ANA). Shorthanded goals allowed (3): 12/5 vs. TOR (Steckel); 12/8 vs. TBL (Moore); 12/17 at PHX (Korpikoski).
* Penalty Killing: The Blueshirts held the Panthers scoreless in one shorthanded situation (2:00) last night at MSG. New York ranks sixth overall (114-132, 86.4%) and seventh on the road (66-77, 85.7%). The Rangers are 5-6 (3:26) in three-on-five situations (last – 12/17 at PHX), and 0-1 (1:17) when three-on-four (last – 10/7 at LAK). Shorthanded goals for (5): 10/20 at CGY (Prust); 12/8 vs. TBL (Anisimov); 12/10 at BUF (Hagelin); 12/10 at BUF (Callahan); 12/20 at NJD (Hagelin).
* Four-on-Four: New York tallied one goal in one four-on-four situation (3:29) last night vs. Florida. The Rangers are plus-four in 39 four-on-four situations (69:22), and even in one three-on-three situation (0:01). Four-on-four goals for (4): 10/18 at VAN (Gaborik); 10/20 at CGY (McDonagh); 10/27 vs. TOR (Girardi); 1/2 vs. FLA (Gaborik). Four-on-four goals allowed (0).

BACK-TO-BACKS
The Rangers will complete their sixth of 14 back-to-back sets this season tonight at Pittsburgh. New York has posted a record of 5-0-1 (3-0-0 at home, 2-0-1 on the road) in the first game of the set, and are 4-0-1 (4-0-0 at home, 0-0-1 on the road) in the second game. Since 2009-10, New York is 25-8-3 in the second game of back-to-back sets, with a 13-3-1 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.

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 four straight in Pittsburgh, dating back to a 3-2 overtime win on Feb. 12, 2010.

PLACE IN HISTORY
The Rangers' .711 winning percentage (25-9-4) is the team's best start through 38 games since their 1993-94 Stanley Cup Championship season (26-9-3, .724 win%), and is tied for fourth best start in franchise history. *courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau

MEASURING UP
The Rangers rank among the league leaders in several statistical categories, including...
* 1st in points (54)
* 2nd in win% (.711)
* T-2nd in wins (25)
* T-1st in regulation/overtime wins (24)
* 1st in fewest regulation losses (nine)
* 2nd in fewest goals against (78)
* 2nd in GAA (2.05)
* 3rd in hits (1,060)
* 7th in blocked shots (612)
* 3rd in +/- rating (plus-30)
* 4th in goal differential (plus-32)

QUICK HITS:
* The last time the Rangers sat atop the Eastern Conference standings this late into the season was Mar. 15, 1996 (game #68). *courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau
* New York has registered at least one point in 24 of their last 30 games (22-6-2), dating back to Oct. 29, after beginning the season with a 3-3-2 mark; The Rangers have out-scored their opponent, 97-63, during the stretch
* The Blueshirts' 12-3-2 (26 pts) mark at MSG is their best start at home through 17 games since 1995-96 (13-2-2, 28 pts)
* New York is 7-1-1 when leading after the first period and 15-0-2 when leading after the second
* The Rangers lead the league with a .300 win% when trailing after two periods (3-6-1), and their three third period comeback victories are tied for sixth in the NHL
* New York leads the NHL with an .800 win% when out-shooting their opponent (12-3-0)
* The Rangers lead the league when scoring first, posting an 18-1-1 mark (.900 win%) in those contests; Their 18 wins rank third in the NHL

INDIVIDUAL NOTES:
* Henrik Lundqvist enters the contest with a five-game winning streak, posting a 1.20 GAA, .962 Sv% and one shutout over the span
* Lundqvist has held opponents to two or fewer goals in 19 games this season, and is 15-4-1 with a 1.74 GAA, .942 Sv% and two shutouts over the last two months (20 games)
* Lundqvist ranks fourth in the NHL in GAA (1.92) and Sv% (.937), is tied for sixth in wins (17) and fifth in shutouts (three)
* Martin Biron has held opponents to two or fewer goals in seven of his 10 starts this season
* Marian Gaborik has tallied nine points (eight goals, one assist) and a plus-seven rating in the last nine games
* Gaborik is tied for second in the NHL with 23 goals
* Michael Del Zotto has tallied 17 points (three goals, 14 assists) in the last 19 games, including seven points (two goals, five assists) in the last seven contests
* Del Zotto is tied for first among NHL defensemen and third in the league overall with a plus-25 rating
* Ryan Callahan enters the contest with a six-game point streak (two goals, five assists over the span), and has recorded 19 points (six goals, 13 assists) in the last 20 games
* Brandon Dubinsky has tallied six points (three goals, three assists) in the last seven games
* Brad Richards enters the contest with a three-game point streak (two goals, one assist over the span)
* Anton Stralman has tallied five points (one goal, four assists) in the last seven games, has posted a plus-10 rating in the last eight and has logged 20:00+ of ice time in seven of the last 10 contests

MILESTONES IN SIGHT:
* Brandon Dubinsky: 2 points from 200th NHL career
* Marian Gaborik: 1 assist from 300th NHL career
* Dan Girardi: 2 assists from 100th NHL career

INJURIES:
* Wojtek Wolski (groin, 11/3) - 27
* Michael Sauer (concussion, 12/5) - 14
* Steve Eminger (shoulder, 12/17) - 8
Total Man-Games Lost: 121

RECENT TRANSACTIONS:
* None

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