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Streaking Penguins ready for Rangers

by Dave Lozo
PENGUINS (24-17-4) at RANGERS (29-11-4)


Last 10: Pittsburgh 4-6-0; New York 7-3-0

Season series: This is third of six meetings between the Atlantic Division rivals. The Rangers won the first two games, most recently a 3-1 win in Pittsburgh on Jan. 6.

Big Story:
While the Rangers are battling for the top spot in the NHL, the banged-up Penguins are fighting for position in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Team Scope:

Penguins: After losing four straight, the Penguins were outside of the top eight in the East. But three straight wins, including a 2-1 shootout victory against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.

"We've got to keep (the losing streak) right close to us and we've got to keep going the same way and make sure that we keep playing the way that we know that we can and the way that's made us successful over these last three games," Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke said.

Rangers: The Rangers didn't let Sunday's 4-1 loss to Montreal -- their second in three games -- turn into a losing skid by bouncing back with a 3-0 defeat of the red-hot Predators.

Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves, and said the Rangers' ability to not let losses linger is a sign the team has grown up this season.

"I think we're more mature," said Lundqvist, whose fourth shutout of the season followed two losses in which he allowed seven goals on 53 shots. "We know how we have to play. So far, every time we lose our focus on how we have to play, we correct it pretty fast. That's key. If you want to stay in top position, you have to correct things right away. You can't let it slide. It's a really good thing to have."

Who's Hot: Evgeni Malkin has 7 goals and 2 assists in his last six games for the Penguins.

Injury Report: Penguis captain Sidney Crosby (concussion) is out. He remains on injured reserve along with defenseman Kris Letang (concussion), center Jordan Staal (sprained MCL) and rookie defenseman Simon Despres (lower body).

Stat Pack: Since Crosby exited the lineup Dec. 5, the Penguins are 8-9-0. Malkin has 12 goals and 15 assists over that span.

Puck Drop: "I think this whole year, we've responded well after poor performances. Throughout the year, you're going to have bad games. You're going to have games where you're not at your best. Good teams respond from that and don’t let it snowball and turn into two losses or three losses." -- Rangers captain Ryan Callahan.
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