The Pittsburgh Penguins (41-24-11) will try to maintain their focus against the New York Rangers (29-32-13) in the “House Billy Joel Built,” tonight. The game provides the chance for the Penguins to catch their breath after the five previous games have come against teams in the playoff hunt. The flip side, however, is the Penguins tend to play down to competition and with the season in its closing stages, they can not afford to lose a trap game.
The Penguins continue to fight for a division title and have made up ground quickly with only six games remaining in the season. Despite their struggles last week, the Penguins maintain a top three spot in Metropolitan Division and are still hopeful they can win a divisional title. They continue to play spirited hockey against playoff caliber teams and hold a 6-2-2 record in their last ten game, eight of which came against playoffs teams.
New York trends in the opposite direction of the Penguins and were officially eliminated from the playoff picture with a loss on Saturday night. After seven straight seasons of making the playoffs, New York will not participate in the postseason for the second straight year. New York boasts a good record at home with 17-12-8 but struggled on the road this year with only 12 wins in 37 games thus far. The season may be essentially over for New York, but they can still play spoiler for some fringe teams.
It comes as no surprise Matt Murray will start tonight. Murray is a perfect 5-0 in his career against the Rangers, including 4-0 at Madison Square Garden. Alexandar Georgiev will start for New York
The Penguins helped their cause in the Metro with a 3-2 win against the Dallas Stars, Saturday. The Penguins faced another challenge in a physical Dallas team that boasted a potent powerplay, but thanks to some key individual efforts came away with two points. Jake Guentzel (38) found a rebound on the power play to give the Penguins an early lead in the game. Guentzel will likely end the season as the Penguins leading goal leader and will become the first winger to lead the team since 2013-14.
Dallas was quick to respond in the second period to tie the game as Tyler Seguin (29) scored. The goal came just over a minute in the period and seemed to provide Dallas with momentum. The teams exchanged chances before Phil Kessel intercepted a pass behind the net and found Jared McCann (18,19) to collect his 51st assist of the year and give his team the lead. Andrew Cogliano (5) scored before the period ended to send both teams to the second intermission tied.
The third period yielded the fans one of the more memorable goals of the year. The Penguins took the lead on Jared McCann’s second goal of the game. McCann took a pass from Teddy Blueger shorthanded, spun to protect the puck from a Dallas defender, and rip a backhander to collect his fourth shorthanded tally of the year. The goal moved McCann into fouth place on the shorthanded goal leaders for the year.
Matt Murray started for the Penguins and looked in postseason form. Murray stopped 29 of 31 shots to collect his first career win against Dallas. Anton Khudobin started for Dallas and made 27 saves.
New York won 2-1 against Toronto in OT, Saturday. Ryan Strome (15) scored the winner with 3:12 remaining in OT to give his team the win. Georgiev started for New York and stopped 44 of 45 shots. Fredrick Andersen started for Toronto and made 26 saves.
The Penguins have killed off 16-straight penalties on the road dating back to March 2 in Montreal.
Despite the lack of goal production Phill Kessel is still contributing. Kessel hit the 50-assist mark for the second time in his career on Saturday in Dallas. In 45 career games against the Rangers, Kessel has 40 points.
Evgeni Malkin (Upper-body, Skating)
Kris Letang (Upper-body, Day-to-day)
Olli Maatta (Upper-Body, IR. Skating, full contact)
Chad Ruhwedel (Long term, skating)
Zach Aston Reese (Longer Term)
Libor Hajek (Separated shoulder)
Jesper Fast (Upper-body)
Chris Kreider (Undisclosed)
Marc Staal (lower-body)
|TEAM||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||12.5% (12th NHL)||80.0% (9th NHL)|
|New York Islanders||20.0% (8th NHL)||87.5% (4th NHL)|
Penguins -200. Over/Under -1.5 +6
Expected Penguins Lines
|Jared McCann||Sidney Crosby||Jake Guentzel|
|Bryan Rust||Evgeni Malkin||Phil Kessel|
|Dominik Simon||Nick Bjugstad||Patric Hornqvist|
|Zach Aston-Reese||Matt Cullen||Garrett Wilson|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Jack Johnson||Justin Schultz|
|Marcus Pettersson||Erik Gudbranson|