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Penguins look to enter Olympic break on high note

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers, the top two teams in the Metropolitan Division, will play for the final time in the regular season Friday (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) at Consol Energy Center.

Pittsburgh used the same forward lines and defense pairings during its morning skate Friday as it used during its game against the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday. Forward Harry Zolnierczyk is expected to remain on the left wing on the Penguins' fourth line in his second game since being recalled from the American Hockey League.

Zolnierczyk has two goals in 10 games with the Penguins. He said his experience with Pittsburgh this season has made it easy to transition from his role with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL.

"I remember my first call-up to [the Philadelphia Flyers]," Zolnierczyk said. "It was pretty nerve-wracking to get your first NHL game. You play half a season there and now to have a good chunk of games here, it makes it that much easier and that much more comfortable to get in the lineup and be comfortable with the guys and to have chemistry with whoever you're playing with."

The Rangers did not hold a morning skate Friday after their 2-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday. Cam Talbot started in goal for New York against Edmonton so it is likely Henrik Lundqvist will start Friday.

"I think this is a pretty different story than the last time we played the Rangers," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "They've been playing their best hockey of the year. They're 7-3 in their last 10, 4-1 in their last five and I think you've seen with how they've rolled with their four lines pretty consistently through this stretch and they've been playing very, very good hockey.

"This is our last one before the break, their last one before the break, and we are looking to play a very good team and a different team than we played the last time."

New York had won four straight games before its loss against the Oilers and is 17 points behind Pittsburgh in the division.

Here are the expected lineups for the Rangers and Penguins:


Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Rick Nash

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Ryan Callahan

Benoit Pouliot - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

Brian Boyle - Dominic Moore - Daniel Carcillo

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Anton Stralman

John Moore - Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

Cam Talbot

Scratched: Justin Falk

Injured: Derek Dorsett (broken fibula)


Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Brian Gibbons

Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal

Tanner Glass - Brandon Sutter - Jayson Megna

Harry Zolnierczyk - Craig Adams - Deryk Engelland

Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin

Rob Scuderi - Robert Bortuzzo

Olli Maatta - Matt Niskanen

Marc-Andre Fleury

Jeff Zatkoff

Scratched: Chuck Kobasew

Injured: Kris Letang (stroke), Beau Bennett (wrist/hand), Taylor Pyatt (lower body), Chris Conner (hand), Pascal Dupuis (knee), Joe Vitale (upper body), Tomas Vokoun (pelvis)

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