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Fleury set to return against Rangers

by Dan Rosen
PENGUINS (32-20-1) at RANGERS (24-21-7)

Last 10: Pittsburgh 6-4-0; New York 4-4-2.

Season Series: This is the fourth of six meetings between the clubs and the Penguins have dominated the series so far. They won on opening night for the two teams, 3-2, and then by a combined 13-5 in a home and home at the end of November.

Big Story: Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to start after missing four games with a broken finger. Fleury was actually expected to start Sunday's game against Philadelphia, but he couldn't go and Brent Johnson stopped 27 shots in a 2-1 win. Fleury is headed to Vancouver as part of Team Canada' goalie contingent. Fleury is not expected to be Canada's No. 1, but the goalie in the other net, Henrik Lundqvist, will most definitely be the King for Sweden.

Team Scope:

Penguins: They rebounded with a strong win Sunday over their rivals after losing at home Thursday night in their much-hyped game against Washington. Individually, Matt Cooke and Brent Johnson were the unlikely stars Sunday. Johnson stopped 27 of 28 shots and Cooke scored the winner with just 1:47 remaining. However, the real star Sunday was the Penguins' power play, which goes hot and cold like a kid playing with a faucet. Both of Pittsburgh's goals against the Flyers came with a man advantage. They were 2-for-6 on the power play and killed off eight of Philadelphia's nine power plays. Sergei Gonchar had the Penguins' other goal 14:33 into the first period. Pittsburgh was 0-for-4 on the power play against Washington after breaking out of a prolonged slump with a 4-for-7 showing against the Islanders last Wednesday.

"We haven't played a game like this (in a while) where we played well defensively and kept a team to one goal or less," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said after Sunday's game. "This is a tough place to play. They've been playing very well. We're coming off a tough loss so this was a big game for us, starting off a road trip."

Rangers: Figuring out a Rubik's Cube is easier than figuring out these New York Rangers. First, they lose three straight games and manage only one goal in the 180 minutes. Then, they score 14 goals in their next two games. And, in their two games since that 120-minute offensive explosion, the Rangers haven't scored a goal. They were beaten 2-0 by Philadelphia on Thursday and crushed 6-0 by Montreal at Bell Centre on Saturday. Montreal, by the way, is the same team the Rangers beat, 6-2, two Sundays ago. However, Lundqvist gave up four goals before being pulled. He allowed three goals within 3:42 in the second period. Maybe this is why the Rangers have 55 points and are fighting for a playoff berth. Inconsistent play has plagued this team all season. They had Sunday off, so tonight is another fresh start.

"To play two great games and then have two doughnuts in a row, it's really tough," defenseman Dan Girardi said.

Who's Hot: Gonchar had a goal and his point shot was deflected in by Cooke for the winner, giving him an assist as well in the win over the Flyers. Evgeni Malkin had an assist and now has 4 goals and 4 assists in the last four games. Sidney Crosby has 3 goals and 5 assists in the last three games. You can't really say anyone is hot on the Rangers considering they haven't scored a goal since last Tuesday.

Injury Report: Fleury (broken finger) is probable for the Penguins, but Max Talbot should be listed as questionable. He's been out the last two games with a lower body injury. Chris Kunitz will miss his 11th straight game after having abdominal surgery. The Rangers are healthy. They have only lost 51 man games to injury all season. 

Stat Pack: Dan Bylsma picked up his 50th win of his young NHL coaching career on Sunday. He's the eighth fastest coach in NHL history to reach 50 wins. He is now 50-23-5. In three games against the Rangers this season, Crosby has 6 goals and 3 assists. … The Rangers were not shutout at all in their first 38 games, but have been blanked five times over their last 14 games.

Puck Drop: "If you can win the special teams battle you give yourself a good chance to win the game. They got one power-play goal but we got two and that was the difference in the game. Penalty kill is all about hard work. Everybody on our team does that well." -- Penguins defenseman Mark Eaton

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