RANGERS (0-0-0) at PENGUINS (0-0-0)
Last 10: Rangers 0-0-0; Penguins 0-0-0
Season series: The teams split six games last season, with the home team winning each game. The Rangers won the first two contests in shootouts, with the since-departed Fredrik Sjostrom scoring the winner each time. Sidney Crosby scored the game-winning goal in the team's most-recent meeting, a 3-2 win in
Big Story: The season opener marks the last chance for the Penguins to celebrate last season's Stanley Cup. Once the championship banner goes up and the puck drops, all that has to be forgotten if the Penguins want to start the season well.
Rangers -- The Rangers have a completely different look from last season, starting with coach John Tortorella's up-tempo offense, which he had a full training camp to implement. Marian Gaborik is the new offensive superstar, assuming he can stay healthy. Questions remain on defense, but goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is an excellent last line.
Penguins -- The Pens' strength still remains up the middle with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury showed his competitive mettle in the final two games of last spring's Cup Final. There are questions on defense after the summer defections of Hal Gill and Rob Scuderi, but summer signing Jay McKee could help off-set that.
Who's Hot -- Gaborik played just 17 games last season due to injury, but he had 23 points in that time. Now he's with a new team and should be extra motivated to turn in a season like 2007-08, when he had 42 goals and played 77 games. Evgeni Malkin won the regular-season and playoff scoring title, and his grasp of the language is improving by the day. And one Cup has him hungry for more -- "I have 10 fingers, I want 10 rings," he told NHL.com.
Injury Report -- Sean Avery sprained a knee ligament Sept. 21 when he collided with teammate Ryan Callahan, and is questionable for Friday's game. He has been skating, but has been wearing an orange, non-contact jersey. Gaborik missed time during training camp with a sore groin, but will be fine for the opener.
Stat Pack --
Puck Drop -- Penguins coach Dan Bylsma is looking forward to Friday's pregame banner raising, but he also wants to get the games started.
"There's a couple different things that will be going through my brain for that night," Bylsma said. "A lot of it will be enjoyment, and then it will be about making sure we are focused to play. We've got to be ready to channel and get back to playing."
-- Adam Kimelman
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