PENGUINS (24-10-1) vs. RANGERS (16-17-1)
TV: NBCSN, TSN2
Last 10: Pittsburgh 9-1-0; New York 4-5-1
Season series: The Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers play the second of four games. Goals from Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan 1:05 apart late in the first period sparked the Rangers to a 5-1 win at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 6.
Big story: Pittsburgh is showing it has one of the NHL's finest farm systems. On a night the Penguins took the ice with a host of players who spent the majority of the season at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League, and Matt Niskanen the one defenseman with more than a year of NHL experience, they defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1. Their fourth straight win and ninth in 10 games gave them a commanding 10-point lead in the Metropolitan Division.
"It's a pretty unique situation," Niskanen said. "One rookie and five young guys playing. These guys have been coming up and playing with confidence and doing a good job. That's exciting for the organization."
Another young Penguins defenseman, Philip Samuelsson, will play against the Rangers, for whom his father, former NHL defenseman Ulf Samuelsson, is an assistant coach. New York's 4-3 shootout win against the Calgary Flames on Sunday gave it a 1-3-1 record in the first five games of a franchise-record nine-game homestand.
Penguins: Although new names made up a big portion of Pittsburgh's lineup Monday, a familiar face delivered again. Sidney Crobsy's 19th goal broke a tie with a little more than six minutes remaining to send the Penguins to victory.
"We keep finding ways," Crosby said. "A lot has to do with the way the [new guys] are playing."
Rangers: Coach Alain Vigneault is more than likely to revert to four full lines and three defensive pairs for the game Wednesday after dressing seven defenseman against the Flames. Following practice Tuesday, Vigneault discussed the importance of developing cohesion among his lines and pairs.
"In my opinion, we have one that seems to have a little bit of chemistry, that's [Chris Kreider] and [Stepan]," he said. "That being said though, [Stepan] went without for quite some time before getting a goal (10 games). We're looking for possible combinations, and if I could keep them together, I would."
Henrik Lundqvist will make his season-high seventh straight start in goal. He will tie Ed Giacomin for third place on the Rangers' all-time goalie list with his 538th game.
Who's hot: Crosby's game-winning goal Monday was his fourth in his past 13 games. The Penguins captain has scored in all seven of his December games (6-5-11) … Rangers center Brad Richards is 1-2-3 in his past five games.
Injury report: Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (lower body) is out Wednesday and Thursday, and will be re-evaluated for the weekend. Forward Jayson Megna (lower body), and defensemen Kris Letang (undisclosed), Paul Martin (broken leg), Brooks Orpik (concussion) and Rob Scuderi (broken ankle) are on injured reserve; Letang and Scuderi could return after the holiday break. Scuderi and Orpik skated Monday with forward Tanner Glass (broken right hand), who coach Dan Bylsma said is days away from coming back … The Rangers are missing defenseman Marc Staal (concussion) and forward Ryan Callahan (sprained left MCL).
Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNHL
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