The New York Rangers sent a letter to their fans last month saying they were looking to the future rather than focusing on making the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season. That doesn't mean they'll compete any less energetically when the Pittsburgh Penguins come to Madison Square Garden for this week's Wednesday Night Rivalry game (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV).
Though the Rangers moved several veterans prior to the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 26, including captain Ryan McDonagh and forwards Rick Nash and J.T. Miller, the players who remained and the newcomers have combined to keep New York (31-32-7) competitive. They are 4-2-1 since the deadline, including a 6-3 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday that damaged their Metropolitan Division rival's playoff hopes.
New York would like to do the same to the Penguins' aspirations of finishing first in the division. The Penguins (40-26-4) come to New York trailing the first-place Washington Capitals by one point and leading the third-place Philadelphia Flyers by three points.
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Malkin has been on a roll during 2018; he's piled up an NHL-high 51 points (25 goals, 26 assists) in 30 games since the start of the new year. That includes three goals and eight points in four games last week, when he was named the NHL's Third Star. Malkin's offensive surge has carried him into second place in the NHL scoring race heading into play Tuesday (87 points, 39 goals, 48 assists) and is a big reason that the Penguins are pushing for first place in their division.
Video: CGY@PIT: Malkin steals the puck and scores
Crosby won't come close to last season's League-leading 44 goals, but he's likely to surpass his total of 89 points from 2017-17. Pittsburgh's captain enters with 76 points (23 goals, 53 assists) and has six points (one goal, five assists) in his past three games. He's always fared well against the Rangers; in 61 games, he has 81 points (30 goals, 51 assists) and five game-winning goals.
Video: PIT@TOR: Crosby scores off deflected backhander
With Matt Murray still out with a concussion, Pittsburgh has been using a tandem of rookies Casey DeSmith and Tristan Jarry, with DeSmith getting the win Sunday in a 3-1 victory against the Dallas Stars. Jarry was pulled in his last start, a 5-2 loss at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. Murray is taking "controlled shots" at practice, but the Penguins haven't said when he might return.
Henrik Lundqvist has started 56 of New York's 70 games, but he's been pulled from eight of them, including five of his past 16. Georgiev, a 22-year-old undrafted rookie who was called up from Hartford of the American Hockey League last month, has been impressive in his five appearances (four starts); he's 2-2-0 with a 2.73 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage. He made 41 saves Monday in the win against Carolina and earned the opportunity to get a bigger test against the two-time defending champions.
Video: CAR@NYR: Georgiev denies Aho with nice pad save
Spooner was acquired Feb. 25 in the trade that sent Nash to the Boston Bruins and has given New York's offense a boost. He has 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) in eight games and has five multipoint games. Spooner has been everything the Rangers could have asked for and more as he positions himself to be a key part of New York's rebuild.