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Rangers try to keep rolling vs. Penguins

by John Kreiser

RANGERS (38-30-4) at PENGUINS (41-22-8)


Last 10 -- New York 6-4-0; Pittsburgh 5-2-3

Season series -- It's the last of six games between the Atlantic Division rivals. The Rangers have won three of the first five, including both games at the Consol Energy Center.

Big story -- Two teams that don't like each other will have the national stage all to themselves. The Rangers have climbed back into seventh place in the East thanks to a 5-1-0 run that includes Friday's 6-3 home win against Montreal -- a win fueled by a five-goal first period. The Penguins have been off since cruising to a 5-1 win at Ottawa on Tuesday -- giving them 10 goals in back-to-back wins against the last-place teams in each conference.

Team Scope:

Rangers -- The Rangers turned their highest-scoring first period in more than 11 years into a win against Montreal on Friday, but the two points may have come at a big price. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist was run over in a goalmouth collision late in the game and left Madison Square Garden with a stiff neck. He didn't practice Saturday, but says he hopes to play.

"I have a tough time moving my head, but the treatment has really helped . . . I have the whole afternoon to take it easy," Lundqvist told reporters after practice.

Penguins -- Coach Dan Bylsma, who gave his players Wednesday and Friday off during the unusual four-day break in the schedule, said the Penguins' game plan won't change regardless of whether Lundqvist plays or not.

"Having played Lundqvist a lot there are certain tendencies that you look for playing against him," he told the Penguins' website on Saturday. "If he's not in there, you won't have that same familiarity with the goaltender. It doesn't change your game planning a lot. It might change the shooters mindset, to shoot often. The game plan doesn't change regardless of if Lundqvist is in or not."

Who's hot -- Rangers forward Ryan Callahan has 11 goals and 21 points in his last 20 games. … Penguins forward Chris Kunitz has 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists) in Pittsburgh's last two games while playing on a line with Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy.

Injury report --
The question of whether Lundqvist will be ready to go may not be answered until Sunday morning. With backup Martin Biron sidelined with a broken collarbone, rookie Chad Johnson would get the call if Lundqvist can't go. Defenseman Marc Staal also left Friday's game after being clipped with a high stick. … The Penguins are still without Crosby (concussion) and Malkin (season-ending knee surgery), as well as key defenseman Brooks Orpik (broken finger). Coach Dan Bylsma said forward Arron Asham will come off IR this weekend -- he's been out since sustaining a concussion on Feb. 1 against the Rangers, but says he's ready to play. Another forward, Mark Letestu, didn't practice Saturday and won't play.

Stat pack -- Though the teams are separated by 10 points in the standings, they're only one goal apart in goal margin. The Penguins are plus-34, fourth in the NHL and one ahead of the Rangers, who are plus-33. … The Rangers, who've struggled on the power play for most of the season, are 11-for-42 (26.2 percent) in their last 11 games.

Puck drop -- Not that you wouldn't expect a lot of hitting in a game between division rivals anyway, but this one could be unusually physical. The Rangers pace the NHL with 2,045 total hits while Pittsburgh is second with 1,965.

"I think we're playing the same style of play," Kunitz said. "They want to work to work and play their systems; they want to get to their game as quick as they can. We want to do the same thing."

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