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Depleted Penguins visit reeling Rangers

by John Kreiser

PENGUINS (35-18-4) at RANGERS (29-24-4)

TV -- NHLN-US (HD); RDS; FS-Pittsburgh (HD); MSG (HD)

Last 10 -- Pittsburgh 6-4-0; New York 3-6-1

Season series -- It's the fifth of six meetings between the Atlantic Division rivals, who have divided the first four. The visiting team has won all four games, including the Penguins' 4-3 shootout victory at Madison Square Garden 12 days ago.

Big story -- To say that the Penguins are bringing a depleted team to the Garden would be putting it mildly. With Sidney Crosby out indefinitely due to a concussion, Evgeni Malkin gone for the season after knee surgery, other regulars like Chris Kunitz and Arron Asham sidelined with injuries and Eric Godard joining Matt Cooke on the suspended list, the Penguins are a shell of themselves. Still, expect them to be energized after being beaten badly in a 9-3 loss to the Islanders on Friday in a game that featured 346 penalty minutes.

Team Scope:

Penguins -- Lost in the aftermath of Friday's fight-filled game was the fact that the Penguins also surrendered nine goals in a game for the first time in more than seven years. Most of the fighting and misconducts came after the Islanders had raced out to s 6-0 lead.

"The first half of the game was a hockey game, and the second was not," said Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, who was fined but not suspended after forward Eric Godard left the bench to get involved in a third-period fight. "I certainly didn't anticipate the third period looking like that."

Rangers -- New York looked like a playoff lock a few weeks ago. But that was before the Rangers went on a six-game losing streak -- including a 3-2 loss at Atlanta on Friday in which they allowed the tying and winning goals in the last six minutes of regulation. The last four losses, including defeats at Detroit and Atlanta this week, have come in regulation.

"Obviously it's frustrating," defenseman Marc Staal told the team's website. "We were going pretty good, but just a few mistakes cost us a game and two big points. We wanted this game real bad, but we didn't get it done."

Who's hot -- Tyler Kennedy has 3 goals in Pittsburgh's last five games, a hot streak on a team that's missing most of its top forwards. Jordan Staal has goals in the Pens' last two games. … Brandon Dubinsky has goals in both of the Rangers' games this week. He leads the Rangers in goals (19), assists (22) and points (41).

Injury report -- Two of the Penguins' minor-league injury call-ups, Dustin Jeffrey (lower body) and Eric Tangradi (concussion symptoms) are also out. Jeffrey was injured Thursday; Tangradi on Friday. Godard earned an automatic 10-game suspension when he came off the bench on Friday, and Cooke is sitting out his four-game suspension for a hit on Columbus' Fedor Tyutin. … Rangers captain Chris Drury underwent knee surgery on Friday and will be out until late next month at the earliest. Derek Boogaard (concussion), Alex Frolov (knee) and Ruslan Fedotenko (shoulder and appendectomy) are also out.

Stat pack -- The Rangers haven't lost seven in a row since Dec. 16-29, 2006. … The Penguins have won their last five visits to the Garden. No team has won six in a row since Philadelphia from 2003-06.

Puck drop -- Pittsburgh's first chance to get back on the ice after Friday's debacle on Long Island was disrupted Saturday morning when the team bus hit a car en route to a practice in Central Park. The players wound up having to hail cabs in full practice gear to finish the trip.

"It's a good thing we were wearing helmets," forward Pascal Dupuis jokingly told the team's website.

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