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Lundqvist among Rangers causing Penguins concern

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- The New York Rangers will have played five games in seven days by the time Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins ends.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma doesn't think that will matter.

"It catches your eye. It's a lot of hockey in a short amount of time," Bylsma said. "Both teams are traveling. The schedule always seems to have its quirks, whether you have two days off in between [games] and you're worrying about too much rest and a break in between. This one, you're playing back-to-back nights.

"It's a lot of hockey for both teams. I don't think it's an advantage or a disadvantage."

Pittsburgh has not played since clinching its Eastern Conference First Round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday. The Rangers have played twice since then, including their 2-1 Game-7 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday.

Though the Penguins understand they have had the luxury of rest that New York has not been able to enjoy, their respect for the Rangers has led them to believe they will not face a weakened opponent by the time Game 1 at Consol Energy Center begins Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist received the bulk of the praise in Pittsburgh's locker room. He has had more success against the Penguins than most goaltenders, with a 25-19-7 record, 2.46 goals-against average and .913 save percentage in 51 appearances.

In his lone Stanley Cup Playoffs series against Pittsburgh, Lundqvist was inconsistent. He began their Eastern Conference semifinal in 2008 by surrendering a 3-0 lead in a 5-4 loss. His only win of the series came with a 29-save shutout in Game 4, while he allowed a total of 14 goals in the other four games.

But Pittsburgh expects Lundqvist, who Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin called his favorite goalie to watch, to be steady in net after allowing one goal against Philadelphia on Wednesday.

"I like him a lot," Malkin said. "He can stop every shot. If we screen him and go to the net, get a rebound maybe, sometimes, there's a good chance to score too."

Rangers forward Martin St. Louis was also mentioned following Pittsburgh's practice Thursday. When the Penguins faced St. Louis and the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the 2011 postseason, the former Hart and Art Ross trophy winner scored two points in four consecutive games.

St. Louis scored a total of four goals and eight points in Tampa Bay's seven-game series victory and has had a similar start to this postseason with two goals and six points.

"He's been getting better and better since joining the Rangers," Penguins defenseman Paul Martin said. "He's always been one of the better players in the League as far as making plays and finding open guys, and I think that works good for a guy like [Rick] Nash, someone who can find him in different areas of the ice."

Nash, limited to four assists in the first round, has not had as productive of a start. Martin thinks it is only a matter of time until Nash, who has scored two postseason goals, ignites in a similar way to what he expects of Penguins forward Sidney Crosby, who is also without a goal.

"It'd be nice to keep it at bay," Martin said. "But he, along with Sid, is one of the better players in the League and has that top-end talent to put up points. Just like Sid, I think it only takes one or two things to get him rolling.

Henrik Lundqvist
Henrik Lundqvist
Goalie - NYR
GAA: 2.11 | SVP: 0.919
"A player like Nash, you just need to try to contain him and take away his time and space."

The Penguins and Rangers split their season series with each winning once in a blowout and once in a shootout. But Bylsma said he thinks the Rangers are a better team than they were when they last faced Pittsburgh.

"We haven't played them a lot recently," Bylsma said. "You can watch the four games we played, a lot of them were early on in the year. They have a different makeup. They went through different things. They had such a big stretch away from home early on this year. Their start wasn't great, and a lot of that was West Coast games, and we played them coming out of that stretch for a couple games.

"Our games against them haven't been what I think they are right now. When you watch them recently, you're looking at really four lines, good lines."

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