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Rangers right back in action against rested Penguins

by Wes Crosby



Season series: The Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers enter the Eastern Conference Second Round having split their four games during the regular season. Each team had a decisive home win (the Rangers 5-1 on Nov. 6 and the Penguins 5-2 on Jan. 3). Each team also picked up a 4-3 shootout victory on the road.

Big story: The Rangers and Penguins will meet in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since the 2008 Eastern Conference Semifinals, which Pittsburgh won in five games on its way to the first of back-to-back Stanley Cup Final appearances. New York is looking to get off to a strong start in its attempt to make its first Eastern Conference Final since 2012.

Team Scope:

Penguins: Pittsburgh has had three days to rest and practice since its 4-3 Game 6 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference First Round on Monday. The Penguins played strong defensively in the final two games of that series even without injured defenseman Brooks Orpik.

Forward Evgeni Malkin seemed to heat up after being paired with forward Sidney Crosby throughout much of the last two games; he had his second postseason hat trick in Game 6. Despite failing to score a goal in the series, Crosby averaged a point per game.

"I feel great," Malkin said. "Had a couple practices, ready to go into the next round. I'm healthy, it's good. We start at home, that's good for us."

Rangers: New York has not had the luxury of rest entering the second round. After losing to the Philadelphia Flyers in a Game 6 on Tuesday, they advanced to face Pittsburgh with a 2-1 Game 7 win the next night. The Rangers will play their third game in four days and will have played five in seven days by Tuesday.

Goalie Henrik Lundqvist responded from a lackluster Game 6 with a 26-save performance in Game 7. He will attempt to replicate that performance against the Penguins, against whom he has a 2.46 goals-against average and .913 save percentage in 51 career appearances.

"He's the backbone of our team for a reason," defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "He made some huge saves down the stretch. We know what he means to this team, and he knows what he means. When he's on his game he's tough to beat. When they had some time in our zone he was the backbone back there. He relaxed everybody with some big saves."

Who's hot: Penguins forward Brandon Sutter scored his third goal of the postseason, tied for the team lead, against Columbus on Monday. He has points in all but one of Pittsburgh's six playoff games and is tied for fifth on the team with five points. … Rangers forward Benoit Pouliot's second goal of the postseason proved to be the game-winner for New York on Wednesday. His four points has him two back of forwards Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards for the team lead.

Injury report: Penguins forward Joe Vitale and Sutter have participated in each of Pittsburgh's practices since leaving Game 6 against the Blue Jackets early with apparent injuries. Orpik (undisclosed) has yet to return to practice while forward Brian Gibbons (undisclosed) has practiced with forwards Jayson Megna and Taylor Pyatt on a fifth line. … The Rangers left their first-round series relatively unscathed. Forward Chris Kreider, who had been sidelined since March 24 with a broken hand, skated and took shots Wednesday and could return to the lineup at some point in this series.

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