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Orpik out as Pens look for first win vs. Rangers

by Alan Robinson /
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins moved into Consol Energy Center 17 months ago, but they're still looking to establish a true home-ice advantage there.
To do that, they need to prove they can beat division rivals like the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers there.
With the first-place Rangers visiting Tuesday for the second time this season, the Penguins still are looking for their first home win against New York since they played in Civic Arena. The Rangers are 1-0 at Consol this season and 4-0 since Consol opened -- the same record the Flyers have.
The Penguins are going into Tuesday's game a bit shorthanded, as Brooks Orpik, their most physical and consistent defenseman, won't play because of an upper-body injury that coach Dan Bylsma said is expected to be short-term.
Backup goalie Brent Johnson, struggling with only one win in the last two months, has an undisclosed illness and won’t suit up. Brad Thiessen, 20-14-2 with a 2.88 goals-against average at AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, was called up to take his place.
Also back in uniform is forward Eric Tangradi, who was recalled Monday from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the fourth time this season. Bylsma said the Penguins need the 6-foot-4, 221-pound Tangradi to add a physical presence, especially with Orpik out.
"Eric, when he played his last time (in mid-January), really provided a physical element, a forechecking presence, (was) good in the offensive zone," Bylsma said. "The reason why we called him back up was because we felt in our third and fourth lines, we need that presence, we need that size, we need that physicality. He's getting called up to be in that role. If he's getting four to five hits a game, he'll be a real factor."
Bylsma did not say what player would come out of the lineup so Tangradi can play. Matt Cooke didn't practice Monday, a day after being struck in the arm by a puck in Buffalo, but he participated in the morning skate Tuesday.
If the Penguins have any hope of overtaking the Rangers to win the Atlantic Division, winning Tuesday is a priority because a loss would drop them 12 points out of the division lead.
"Yeah, we still want to catch them," forward Jordan Staal said Tuesday. "I watched the last game we played in that building (a 4-1 win in New York on Jan. 19), and I felt like we had a really solid game. We are right there with them, but we definitely need to play our best to have a good chance for the win."
That game represents the Penguins' only win in three games against their long-time rival this season. There are two other matchups remaining after Tuesday -- March 15 in New York and April 5 in Pittsburgh.
"They're the best team in East by nine points, 10 ahead of us, and certainly a team where if we have any idea that we're going to catch them, we're going to need to win all three games against them, starting with the one here tonight," Bylsma said. "The consistency with which they play, the way they play their game, is the determining factor in their success. Their penalty kill is near the tops in the League; (they have) well-rounded defensive play. … They come at you in a lot of different ways."
Bylsma also called the Rangers "a dangerous, aggressive team. They've got a lot of different guys being effective and scoring for their team."  Ten Rangers currently have 20 or more points.
Without Orpik, here's what the Penguins' lineup could look like tonight:
Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal
Steve Sullivan - Jordan Staal - Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke - Joe Vitale - Arron Asham
Eric Tangradi - Dustin Jeffrey - Craig Adams
Kris Letang - Zbynek Michalek
Matt Niskanen - Paul Martin
Ben Lovejoy - Deryk Engelland
Marc-Andre Fleury will be in net for the 31st time in the Penguins' last 33 games; in three of those, he replaced an ineffective Johnson.  In 39 career games against the Rangers, he is 19-12-7 with a 2.79 GAA.
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