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Penguins-Rangers Preview @NHLdotcom
Penguins-Rangers Preview

GAME: Pittsburgh Penguins (7-12-6) at New York Rangers (16-7-3).

TIME: Thursday, 7 p.m. EST.

Though four days off may have slowed their momentum, the New York Rangers probably didn't mind the break.

Coming off the longest game of the NHL season, the Rangers seek their longest winning streak in four years when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Atlantic Division-leading Rangers have not played since Saturday, when they won their fifth straight with a 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals after a league-record, 15-round shootout.

"I started to think it would never end," said New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who made 35 saves and stopped nine shootout attempts.

That contest was the 13th in 24 days for the Rangers, whose five-game win streak came in a span of eight days. They haven't won six in a row since a six-game run in November 2001.

New York is nine games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 1995-96 season, when it finished 41-27-14.

Jaromir Jagr was held without a point Saturday for the first time in five games, but has registered three goals and seven assists during the five-game winning streak. He is second in the league with 21 goals and tied for third with 39 points.

Michael Nylander and rookie Petr Prucha also have scored three goals during the win streak, which has seen nine New York players score goals and 14 earn a point.

Pittsburgh has dropped three straight and six of eight to drop into last place in the Atlantic.

The Penguins, coming off a 3-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday, has been outscored 13-6 during their three-game skid.

"We had some good opportunities and the last couple of games we've been having a hard time finishing," said Pittsburgh coach Ed Olczyk, whose team has scored more than three goals only once in 12 games. "We're creating a lot but not finishing."

Before Tuesday's game, the Penguins shuffled their goalies, calling-up 21-year-old Marc-Andre Fleury from the AHL and placing veteran Jocelyn Thibault on waivers. Fleury made 24 saves, but let in Ales Kotalik's game-winner through his pads on a wrist shot from the left side.

"They got a lucky bounce and when you talk about soft goals, that was one you would call a soft goal," Olczyk said.

Thibault cleared waivers Wednesday, but the Penguins apparently plan to keep him on the club for now. Pittsburgh can assign Thibault to the minors, but he would have to clear waivers again if the team wanted to bring him back. If he was claimed, the Penguins would be responsible for paying half of the remaining portion of his salary this season.

Rookie center Sidney Crosby has been held without a point in two straight games for the first time this season.

Mario Lemieux has also been held without a point in the last two contests after returning from a stomach virus.

STANDINGS (through Nov. 30): Penguins - 20 points, 5th place, 15 PB, Atlantic Division. Rangers - 35 points, 1st place, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Penguins - Crosby, 12 goals; Zigmund Palffy, 18 assists; Crosby and Palffy, 28 points; Brooks Orpik, 40 PIM. Rangers - Jagr, 21 goals and 39 points; Martin Straka, 21 assists; Darius Kasparaitis, 36 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 30): Penguins - Power play: 16.7 percent (28 for 167), 19th in NHL. Penalty killing: 78.1 percent (129 for 165), 29th. Rangers - Power play: 16.9 percent (26 for 153), 17th (tied). Penalty killing: 86.3 percent (146 for 169), 4th.

GOALTENDERS: Penguins - Fleury (1-2-1, 0, 3.32); Sebastien Caron (5-3-3, 0 SO, 3.95 GAA). Rangers - Lundqvist (9-3-2, 1, 2.07); Kevin Weekes (7-4-1, 0, 2.79).


LAST MEETING: Nov. 12; Rangers, 6-1. At Pittsburgh, Jagr had his second hat trick of the season and Steve Rucchin added two goals.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Penguins - 4-6-3 on the road; Rangers - 8-2-2 at home.

Associated Press
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