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Rangers to host Pens in home opener

by Mike Battaglino

PENGUINS (1-0-0) AT RANGERS (0-1-0)


Season series: This is the teams' first matchup this season. The Penguins won the final four meetings of 2011-12 after losing the first two. Pittsburgh outscored New York 16-5 in that four-game streak, including two 5-2 wins over Rangers backup goalie Martin Biron.

Big story: The Penguins and Rangers are considered the favorites in the Eastern Conference, and if either wins the Atlantic Division they likely would be in good position for the top playoff seed. The Rangers play the Penguins twice, the Boston Bruins twice and the Philadelphia Flyers twice before the end of January, so the points they gain or squander at the start could make a difference come April.

This is the first game between the teams since last April 5, when Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik was given a major and a misconduct for kneeing Rangers forward Derek Stepan, causing New York coach John Tortorella to blast the Pittsburgh organization, which resulted in $20,000 fine and a pointed response from Sidney Crosby.

Team scope:

Penguins: Marc-Andre Fleury on Saturday did not look like the same goaltender who was riddled by the Flyers in the first-round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Fleury stopped 26 of 27 shots in a season-opening 3-1 win at Wells Fargo Center, giving him 227 in his career, a franchise record (passing Tom Barrasso).

"He had to stand up big in the net and hold his own finding that puck," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma told The Associated Press. "He was real big in there, real strong. At times, I don't know [how] it did stay out of there, but it was a big finish. It was fitting he gets that win in here."

Bylsma told the Tribune-Review backup Tomas Vokoun will start this game.

Crosby did not have a point, but defenseman Paul Martin had two. James Neal, who had a career-best 40 goals last season, picked right up where he left off with one 7:20 into the first period.

Rangers: Scoring was the downfall of the team in last year's Stanley Cup Playoffs, and it didn't change much in the season opener, a 3-1 loss to the Bruins in Boston. Rick Nash, acquired to boost to the offense, had an assist on Brad Richards' goal, but the Rangers failed on a 1:30, 5-on-3 early in the third period and managed 21 shots overall.

"The first period was a bit rusty, but after that I thought we came back and played hard, but we have to finish and score goals," Nash told Blueshirts United.

Henrik Lundqvist, as usual, kept his team in the game with 31 saves. The Rangers face an early four-point gap in the standings in their home opener after traveling last night, while the Penguins made the ride up I-95 hours earlier.

Who's hot: Fleury allowed one goal after giving up 26 to the Flyers in a six-game playoff loss. Martin had two assists; it took him 10 games to get to three points last season, 19 to get to four. Neal had seven shots in 16:16 of ice time. … Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi played 24:47, had an assist and blocked three shots.

Injury report: The Penguins report no injuries. … Rangers defenseman Michael Sauer is out long-term with a concussion.

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