Last 10: Pittsburgh 9-1-0; New York 6-3-1
Season Series: This is the fifth of six season meetings. Each has team has two regulation victories, with the Penguins winning the last two by a combined 6-1.
Big Story: Take your pick. Sidney Crosby's return to action. Kris Letang's (possible) return to action. The battle between the two best teams in the Eastern Conference. The Penguins going for their 10th straight win. The Rangers looking to avoid plummeting from first to fourth in the standings if their spotty play continues. It's about as big as a regular-season game gets, with the Rangers holding a six-point edge on the Pens, who have a game in hand.
Penguins: During their current nine-game winning streak, the Penguins have been utterly dominant. Consider some of these numbers:
* They are averaging 3.67 goals per game.
* They are allowing 1.33 goals per game.
* The power play is 6-for-28 (21.4 percent).
* The penalty kill is 27-for-28 (96.4 percent).
Throw in the fact that Crosby is definitely coming back from a concussion and Letang could be cleared to play following Thursday's practice, and there's a whole lot to fear from a healthy Penguins team.
"Playing the way we are and then getting the best player in the world back [from injury] is not bad," right winger James Neal said in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Rangers: Perhaps it's raised expectations, but there sure seems to be a lot of criticism of late of the Rangers, who are second in the NHL with 95 points.
They bounced back from a three-game losing streak to beat the Islanders 4-3 on Sunday and the Hurricanes 4-2 on Tuesday in preparation for this showdown with the Penguins. The Rangers haven't had a complete effort in quite some time, but they'll need it Thursday.
"It was a little bit of an up-and-down game, which we don't usually play but that's the way it went," Brad Richards said after the win against Carolina.
Who's Hot: During the Penguins' nine-game win streak, Evgeni Malkin has six goals and seven assists. … Richards has five goals and two assists in his last three games.
Injury Report: Crosby (concussion) is back, while Letang (concussion symptoms) could be back for the Penguins. … For the Rangers, forward Ryan Callahan (foot) and Michael Del Zotto (hip) have missed time of late but could both be back for this contest.
Stat Pack: The Rangers' current seven-game homestand is tied for the longest in franchise history, with their last one coming in 2001-02. … Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has lost once since Feb. 7, a span of 10 starts.
Puck Drop: "I think it's just easier going through it this time. I know what to expect. That first game (Nov. 21) was pretty overwhelming. It was a lot of fun. But that being said, I think I'll take it a little more in stride this time and make sure I'm getting better every game, but also try to pace myself a bit -- especially with the schedule." -- Crosby, on his second concussion comeback this season