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Penguins host Rangers in start of home-and-home

by John Kreiser /

RANGERS (13-11-1) at PENGUINS (17-9-0)

Last 10 - New York 4-6-0; Pittsburgh 5-5-0

Season series - The teams haven't seen each other since Oct. 2, when they opened the season in Pittsburgh - a game the Penguins won 3-2. They meet again Monday night in New York.

Big story - Eight weeks after starting the season against each other, the Penguins and Rangers appear to be headed in different directions as they open a home-and-home series. Despite a 3-2 loss Friday on Long Island, the Penguins have won 17 of their first 26 games and show every sign that once they get everyone healthy, they'll be a threat to defend their Stanley Cup championship. The Rangers won their next seven games after the opening-night loss, but are 6-10-1 since then and were blown out 5-1 at TampaBay on Friday night.

Team Scope:

Rangers - The fans at the St. Pete Times Forum gave John Tortorella a standing ovation Friday night, saluting him in his first game back since being fired as Lightning coach after the 2007-08 season. Tortorella led the Bolts to the Cup in 2004 and undoubtedly appreciated the recognition, but he was completely dissatisfied with his current team's play in the blowout loss.

"Everybody stunk," was one synopsis. "Top to bottom, no one played well. This was a group effort," was another. "We were simply outplayed, from the top line right through the goaltender," was a third.

So was there anything good, coach?

"The best thing is that we play tomorrow night," he said.

Penguins - For a team with stars like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins have an awful power play. They were 0-for-5 against the Islanders on Saturday, and the game appeared to turn late in the second period when they got nothing from a 55-second 5-on-3 advantage and a 5-on-4 power play that lasted 3:05.

"It was an opportunity that we didn't capitalize on, and they were energized by dodging that bullet. They kept coming pretty hard after that," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said after his team dropped to 4-for-55 with the extra man over the past 14 games.

Who's hot - Malkin has a five-game points streak after scoring a goal against the Islanders. … Rangers forward Marian Gaborik has 9 goals and 6 assists for 15 points in New York's 11 games this month - quite an accomplishment on a team that has scored just 24 times in those 11 games.

Injury report - Rangers defenseman Wade Redden missed Friday's game with a shoulder injury and is listed as day-to-day. … Pittsburgh is still without its injured trio of defensemen, Alex Goligoski, Jay McKee and Kris Letang.

Stat pack - The Rangers have only one more regular-season visit to Mellon Arena after this one, and if recent results are an indication, they won't miss the old barn. Pittsburgh has won the last six meetings at the former Civic Arena and is 11-0-2 in the last 13. The Rangers haven't won in regulation at Mellon since a 4-2 victory on Jan. 19, 2006.

Puck drop - Mellon Arena hasn't been a happy stopover for the Rangers in recent years. With the Penguins coming off a disappointing loss, expect the home side to come out flying and try to put the Rangers on their heels early.

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