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Penguins Report: Broadway Showdown

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
The Broadway showdown between the Penguins and Rangers will pit the top two teams in the Atlantic Division standings in a battle for positioning on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden at 7 p.m.


“It’s always pretty intense games against them,” Sidney Crosby said. “We built a pretty good rivalry over the last few years. They play well at home and it will be a good road test for us. You have to be ready.”

The Rangers currently lead the Atlantic Division with a 17-8-2 record for 36 points. The Penguins are five points back with a mark of 14-6-3-31. But Pittsburgh has played four fewer games and can make up some ground in Wednesday’s game.

“Every time you play a team in your division, it’s a huge game,” said Penguins’ goaltender Dany Sabourin. “Just like last game (against New Jersey), more so when there’s a team that you want to catch. That will be a huge game for us (Wednesday).”

They play hard at MSG and we’re going to have to go out and play one of the best games of the year. - Matt Cooke
“They’re the team ahead of you and you always push to catch the team ahead of you,” Matt Cooke said. “They’re playing well. They have a good goaltender. They play hard at MSG and we’re going to have to go out and play one of the best games of the year.”

But there could be more at stake than merely the Atlantic Division. After all, the Rangers are also tied with the Boston Bruins (16-4-4-36) for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

“It’s still early in the season but every time that you play the No. 1 team, not only in the division but they’re tied with Boston (in the conference), it’s a challenge,” head coach Michel Therrien said. “That’s why I’m sure it will be an interesting game. But it’s still early in the season.”

The Penguins previous game in New York Oct. 25 ended poorly after the team allowed the Rangers to tie the game, 2-2, in the final minute of regulation. The Rangers went on to win the matchup in a shootout.

“We had a letdown the last time there,” Cooke said. “There’s no getting over that. We know that. It’s a focus of ours to get on the winning side.”

The battle with New York marks the first game of Pittsburgh three-game road trip. The Penguins play the following night against Carolina in Paul Maurice’s (re-)debut for the Hurricanes. Then the team will make its first trip to Canada this season with a matchup in Ottawa on Saturday at 2 p.m.

“Whether it’s the Rangers or Carolina the next day, we have to make sure that we have a good road trip,” Cooke said. “We’re in a situation right now where we can’t really look too far ahead. We need to focus on the next task. Right now that is the Rangers.”

Therrien agreed with Cooke’s assessment. His focus is on New York.

“I don’t want to look ahead,” he said. “Right now my concentration is on (Wednesday). We play the No. 1 team in the division. We all know our division is pretty competitive. They play well. They play a solid defensive game. It’s always a challenge to play at Madison Square Garden.”


> The Penguins are sticking with their line sets from previous games. The combinations to start the game will be: Maxime Talbot-Crosby-Miroslav Satan; Ruslan Fedotenko-Evgeni Malkin-Petr Sykora; Cooke-Jordan Staal-Tyler Kennedy; Pascal Dupuis-Mike Zigomanis-Eric Godard.

     
 

 
     
Ryan Whitney rejoined his team for the Penguins morning skate at Madison Square Garden. He missed the previous two days of practices to have a special skate designed to fit his surgically repaired foot.

Marc-Andre Fleury did not practice but skated following the team’s morning skate. Philippe Boucher, whose status was downgraded from day-to-day to week-to-week, did not accompany the team on its current three-game road trip.


> Kris Letang will be sporting a new (old) stick for the game against the Rangers. The Penguins defenseman hasn’t scored a goal in 33 games (49 including last season’s playoff run). The last time Letang notched a goal was on March 12, 2008, in a 7-3 victory over Buffalo.

To get Letang out of his current slump, the Penguins’ coaching staff suggested that he go back to his old stick and to shoot the puck more often.

“We strongly suggested that he change his stick,” Therrien said with a smile. “Maybe sometimes it’s a matter of confidence.”


> The Carolina Hurricanes will have a new head coach when they face the Penguins on Thursday night at 7 p.m.

The Hurricanes fired coach Peter Laviolette on Wednesday only two seasons after he led the team to a Stanley Cup championship. Paul Maurice, who previously coached the team from 1995-2003, was named as Laviolette’s replacement.

“For sure, they’re going to be at their best,” Therrien said of the Hurricanes. “It’s not an easy thing for a team to play against a team with a new coach. Players want to show something to the new coach. It’s a challenge.”

Former Penguin and Hall of Famer Ron Francis was named associate coach.


> Penguins defenseman Mark Eaton will hit a career milestone against the Rangers on Wednesday night. The eight-year veteran will play in his 400th career game after breaking into the league with Philadelphia in 1999.

I feel very fortunate to be able to make it this far and play this long. I’m very blessed. - Mark Eaton
“It seems like it’s been forever ago,” Eaton said of his rookie season. “I feel very fortunate to be able to make it this far and play this long. I’m very blessed. Hopefully, I’m not even halfway there. It’s the old cliché, but I take it one game at a time.”

As far as playing in a milestone game, there aren’t many better venues than historic Madison Square Garden. Eaton believes it’s a fitting place for his 400th game.

“I didn’t grow up too far from New York,” he said. “I’ve played probably more games there than anywhere else on the road. It’s an appropriate place I guess.”



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