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Penguins vs. Rangers Game Preview

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh Penguins

Home: 10-5-1-21
Road: 11-4-1-23

WHEN: Dec. 15, 2010 - 7:00 pm   |   WHERE: CONSOL Energy Center
FSN  |  LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM
New York Rangers
Home: 7-8-1-15

  Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers 
Marian Gaborik
F  -  #10
  9 Goals
  9 Assists
  18 Points
• The sniping right winger has posted 30 or more goals in six of his nine NHL seasons, scoring 42 goals in both 2007-08 and 2009-10.

• Signed with the Rangers in 2009 after spending his first eight seasons with the Minnesota Wild, leaving as the club’s all-time leading scorer in goals (219), assists (218) and points (437).

• After being named to his first NHL All-Star game in his third season, he won the Fastest Skater competition after lapping the rink in just 13.713 seconds.
Chris Drury
F  -  #23
  0 Goals
  0 Assists
  0 Points
• Scored 14 goals, posted a 52.9-percent success rate in the faceoff dot and led all forwards with an average of 3:00 shorthanded minutes each game during the 2009-10 campaign.

• Became the first and only player in NHL history to win both the Calder Memorial Trophy as the rookie of the year and the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's top player.

• The clutch performer won a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001 after posting 65 points (24G-41 A) that season.
Michael Del Zotto
D  -  #41
  2 goals
  6 assists
  8 points
• Is the quarterback of the Rangers power play, with five of his eight points coming with the man-advantage—in 2009-10, he scored four of his nine goals and 18 of his 28 assists on the power play.

• The sophomore NHLer ranks second on the team with 58 blocked shots and averages 21:29 of ice time each game, good for fourth on the squad.

• The 20-year-old defenseman, who wears No. 4 in honor of Bobby Orr, was named to both the NHL All-Rookie team and the Canadian roster for the 2010 IIHF World Championships last season.
The New York Rangers enter Wednesday’s game against their Atlantic Division rival Pittsburgh with plenty of confidence after handing down a 7-0 thumping to Washington on Sunday. The Rangers are 6-3-0 in their past nine games and have won eight of their last 12.

New York’s success all comes down to defense, starting with their goaltending. In those last nine contests, netminder Henrik Lundqvist has been a brick wall for the Rangers.

He’s earned three of his five shutouts this season in that span, backstopping his way to a 1.64 goals-against average. His 13 wins are eighth (tied) among NHL goaltenders.

Since Michal Rozsival's return to the lineup on Nov. 27 after missing nine games due to injury, their top-four defensemen have settled into a rhythm on the back end. Marc Staal, Dan Girardi and Michael Del Zotto join Rozsival to patrol the blue line in front of Lundqvist.

The Rangers have also been extremely consistent in the offensive department. Their second line of youngsters Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and Ryan Callahan has been putting up solid numbers all season, producing the bulk of the team’s offense with a combined 34 goals and 67 points. They also bring an aggressive, competitive nature to the ice each night, helping the Rangers lead the NHL with 945 hits.

Sniper Marian Gaborik, who's on the top line with Derek Stepan and former Penguin Ruslan Fedotenko, seems back to his old self after suffering an onslaught of injuries at the beginning of the season. The Blueshirts' top scorer last season with 42 goals and 86 points has 18 points (9G-9A) through just 19 games played and ranks third in team scoring.

The Rangers lineup will get a boost with the return of captain Chris Drury on Wednesday. Drury, who has missed the past 29 games with a broken index finger, and will see time at center and left wing against the Penguins, a team he’s notched 34 points against in 39 games.

The team will rely on Drury for his veteran leadership off the ice and will depend on him to kill penalties and win faceoffs on the ice.
  • The highly anticipated hour-long first episode of HBO Sports’ groundbreaking “24/7 Penguins-Capitals: Road to the Winter Classic” will debut on Wednesday, Dec. 15 at 10 p.m. The four-week, all-access series is following the two teams as they prepare to meet twice in a span of nine days, including the 2011 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic at Heinz Field on New Year’s Day.
  • The Penguins are currently on a seven-game home winning streak at CONSOL Energy Center, which is the NHL's longest current-active streak. A win tonight against the Rangers would allow Pittsburgh to tie Los Angeles for the longest home-winning streak this season. The Penguins are 8-0-1 In their past nine games at CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins also tied their franchise mark of seven-straight road wins on Dec. 11 against Buffalo.
  • Wednesday marks the Penguins’ sixth set of back-to-back games so far this season. Pittsburgh is 8-3 overall in back-to-back contests this year, with a 3-3 mark the first night and a perfect 5-0 record in the second game.
  • Pittsburgh’s last pair of back-to-back games came when the Penguins topped Ottawa 2-1 on Nov. 27 and defeated Calgary the following afternoon, 4-1. Sidney Crosby recorded a hat trick versus the Flames, and nearly became just the second player in NHL history after Mario Lemieux to score a goal in every possible variation. He had an even-strength tally, a power-play goal, and scored shorthanded into an empty net. He missed a penalty shot 4:14 in the game.
  • In 2009-10, the Penguins finished with a 5-0-1 record versus the Rangers. So far this season, Pittsburgh fell to New York 3-2 in overtime on Nov. 15 and topped the Rangers 3-1 on Nov. 29. The Penguins are now 9-0-2 against the Rangers in their past 11 games, earning a 18-5-8 record against New York since the beginning of the 2006-07 season.
  • Last season, Crosby led the way versus the Rangers with eight goals and 14 points through six games, including a hat trick at Mellon Arena on Nov. 28. The Penguins captain has 51 points (20G-31A) in 36 games against the Rangers, making them one of three teams (the New York Islanders and Philadelphia being the others) that Crosby has recorded 50 or more career points against.


Pressure Lundqvist: Lundqvist allowed a fluky goal late in the game to Columbus’ Rick Nash in a 3-1 loss to the Blue Jackets on Dec. 11. The Rangers goaltender used that disappointment as fuel for New York’s game against Washington the following night, earning a 31-save shutout (his fifth of the season) against the Capitals. The Penguins must try to rattle Lundqvist and take him off his game much like Nash and the Blue Jackets did, by playing unrelenting hockey, creating traffic and tipping every puck they can get a stick on.

Manage The Puck In The Offensive Zone: The Penguins third line of Chris Conner, Mark Letestu and Tyler Kennedy continued to do a stellar job using their wheels to gain the offensive zone on Tuesday against Philadelphia. The Flyers didn't have an answer for the speed, tenacity and battle level of the trio, who worked the puck well and generated shots. Puck protection and management will be key for the Penguins against a feisty, aggressive Rangers squad.

C Jordan Staal, broken right hand (up to 2 weeks)
F Mike Comrie, lower-body (9)
F Chris Kunitz, undisclosed (1)
RW Derek Boogard, shoulder (day-to-day)
LW Vinny Prospal, knee (January)
Crosby (26) Dubinsky (14)
Crosby (27) Girardi (14)
Crosby (53) Dubinsky (27)
Engelland (69) Avery (114)
Letang (+17) Sauer (+9)
Crosby (8) Dubinsky (4)
Cooke (2)
Dubinsky (3)
Fleury (14-7-1) Biron (5-2-1)
Johnson (2.00) Biron (2.38)
Johnson (.931) Lundqvist (.919)

Sidney Crosby - Although the Penguins 12-game winning streak came to an end Tuesday against the Flyers, the Penguins captain just keeps on rolling. Crosby tallied two assists in Pittsburgh’s 3-2 loss to Philadelphia to extend his scoring stretch to 19 games, tying his personal-best stretch he put up from Oct. 6 to Nov. 17, 2007. With a goal or an assist on Wednesday, he’ll extend his point streak to a career-best 20 games. His stretch has placed atop the league scoring race, leading the league with 26 goals and 53 points.
Brandon Dubinsky - While the team’s leading scorer has six points (2G-4A) over his last five games, it’s the intangibles Dubinsky brings to the ice each night that makes him the ultimate competitor for his team. The feisty center notched a Gordie Howe hat trick on Sunday against the Capitals when he scored a goal, added an assist and engaged in fisticuffs with Alex Ovechkin after the Washington center leveled his teammate Dan Girardi in the Rangers’ defensive end. He also ended the night with a career-high plus-four rating.

Notebook: Malkin Makes Mark in Return to Lineup
Aftermath: Penguins 3, Flyers 2
Penguins Report: Game Day at Philadelphia
Crosby, Letang Continue to Rank Nos. 1-2 in NHL All-Star Fan Balloting
Count Penguins among those excited for '24/7' debut
The Wait is Almost Over for Pens Fans

Clowe, Fleury and Nash Named NHL 'Three Stars' of the Week
Penguins, Aramark Ask Fans to Choose CONSOL Energy Center's "Signature Sandwich" For Face-Off at Winter Classic
Notebook: 18 and Counting
Jeffrey Making the Most of His Opportunity        

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Author: Michelle Crechiolo

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