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Pittsburgh vs. NY Rangers Preview

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins

THE FUNDAMENTALS

Pittsburgh Penguins (0-0-0) vs. New York Rangers (0-0-0)

Where: Mellon Arena
When:
Friday, Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m.
Radio:
WXDX Radio, FM 105.9
TV:
FSN Pittsburgh, the game will be broadcast in HD, available on Armstrong 179, Atlantic Broadband 782, Citizen 737, Comcast 226/774, DISH 428, DirecTV 659 and Verizon Fios 576.
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View FSN's Broadcast Schedule here()
Notes: The Pittsburgh Penguins hold their final season opener at Mellon Arena, the building that’s housed the team since it entered the league in 1967, when they host the New York Rangers.

The team will raise its 2008-09 Stanley Cup Championship banner in a special ceremony and the Stanley Cup, which was recently inscribed with the Penguins’ names, will be present. Following the game, there will be a fireworks display (weather permitting). 

In what has become a Penguins’ playoff tradition, the team will set up a big screen outside the arena that will show playoff game highlights and the Penguins’ Stanley Cup championship DVD.

 
PENGUINS PROJECTED LINES RELATED CONTENT
Forwards
Kunitz-Crosby-Guerin
Dupuis-Malkin-Fedotenko
Cooke-Staal-Kennedy
Rupp-Adams-Godard

Defense
Gonchar-Orpik
Eaton-Letang
Goligoski-McKee

Netminder
Fleury


Game Highlights 
AP Recap
 
 
KEY TO VICTORY
Attack Del Zotto: Rangers 19-year-old defenseman Michael Del Zotto will be making his NHL debut. While gifted offensively, the defensive aspect of the position is the toughest for a youngster to perfect. With tough vets such as Marc Staal and Wade Redden, look for the Penguins to try getting Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin’s unit onto the ice against Del Zotto at every opportunity. 

Power Supply: With defenseman Sergei Gonchar healthy from the outset of the season and veteran Bill Guerin available to provide a net presence in front, along with the obvious out-of-this-world offensive talent possessed by Crosby and Malkin, the Penguins have the making of a potent power play. With playing chemistry still developing at the beginning of the season, a lethal power play can steal a game or two.
 
LOWDOWN ON THE RANGERS
Much like the Penguins, the Rangers picked up steam late last season following a coaching change. Former Stanley Cup-winner John Tortorella was hired to replace the departed Tom Renney. He led the Rangers to a 12-7-2 finish and the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoff field. The Rangers went up 3-1 in their series against the Washington Capitals in the first round before the Capitals came back to take the series in seven games.

New York once again remade their roster in the offseason, trading or not re-signing forwards Nikolai Zherdev, Nik Antropov, Scott Gomez and Blair Betts, while former Penguin Markus Naslund announced his retirement. The Rangers hope Marian Gaborik, Vaclav Prospal, Ales Kotalik and Chris Higgins can mesh with returning centers Chris Drury and Brandon Dubinsky to give the team a strong offense to complement all-world netminder Henrik Lundquist. The Rangers’ defense, all adept at moving the puck to the gifted forwards, should benefit from a full season under Tortorella, whose up-tempo, puck-possession system is similar to the one employed by the Penguins under Dan Bylsma.
 
NEW FACES
As usual, the Rangers were big spenders during the offseason. Their marquee move was signing former Minnesota Wild star Marian Gaborik. The Slovak winger played in only 17 games for the Wild a season ago, but registered 13 goals and 23 points in those contests. Joining the Rangers after his contract was bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning was veteran Vaclav Prospal. Prospal contributed 19 goals and 26 assists for the Lightning and needs one point for 600 in his NHL career. Ales Kotalik, a big winger with solid finishing skills, joins the Rangers after splitting last season with the Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers. Winger Christopher Higgins was acquired from the Montreal Canadians via the blockbuster trade which sent center Scott Gomez to Montreal. Higgins is a three-time 20-plus goal scorer who registered a career-high 27 tallies two seasons ago. Finally, winger Donald Brashear, owner of 2,561 career penalty minutes, joins the Rangers as their new enforcer.
 
FORWARDS
New York struggled once again to generate offense in 2008-09, scoring only 210 goals, tied for the second-lowest mark in the Eastern Conference and tied for the fifth-fewest mark in the NHL. New York parted ways with its top-two scorers from a season ago when RW Nikolai Zherdev was non-tendered and C Scott Gomez was traded to Montreal in a deal that netted the Rangers Chris Higgins. Center Chris Drury, with 56 points (22G-34A) is the Rangers’ highest returning scorer. New York also lost RW Nik Antropov, who scored seven times in 18 games after being acquired at the trade deadline.

Drury should see his numbers improve with the addition of quality wingers such as Higgins, sniper Marian Gaborik and veteran Vaclav Prospal. New York does have two promising youngsters who appear poised to continue their upward trend in 2009-10. RW Ryan Callahan lit the lamp 22 times a season ago while C Brandon Dubinsky proved to be a reliable second-line center, registering 13 goals and 28 assists playing in all 82 games. Sean Avery adds sandpaper to the Rangers attack after a failed stint in Dallas landed him back in New York at the trade deadline. 
 
DEFENSEMEN
The Rangers have invested a ton of money into their defense the past couple offseasons. Steady Marc Staal, older brother of the Penguins’ Jordan Staal, saw his ice time increase almost two-and-half minutes in 2008-09 as he emerged as a defensive force against opponents’ top lines. Former Penguin Michal Rozsival is the Rangers’ top source of offense from the back end, scoring eight times and contributing 30 points while quarterbacking the Rangers power play.

Veteran Wade Redden is another two-way defenseman who can handle chores against the opponents’ top lines while also chipping in offensively. He has plenty of big-game experience from his days with the Ottawa Senators. Youngster Dan Girardi made huge strides a season ago, playing in all 82 games and scoring 22 points (4G-18A). Offensively-gifted19-year-old Michael Del Zotto made the team out of training camp after spending last season split between Oshawa and London of the OHL.
 
GOALTENDING
Henrik Lundquist continues to keep the Rangers in contention despite their lack of goal scoring prowess the past two seasons. The workhorse backstop has appeared in 70-plus games three straight seasons, including 70 a season ago when he won a career-high 38 games while posting a record of 38-25-7. Lundquist has posted win totals of 30, 37, 37 and 38 his first four seasons.

In addition to backstopping the Rangers, he is also expected to be the go-to-guy for Team Sweden in the Vancouver Olympics. The 2009 NHL All-Star won five of his six decisions during the 2006 Games. He will once again be backed up by Steve Valiquette, who went 5-5-2 in 15 games a season ago.
 
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: MARIAN GABORIK
Desperate for goal-scoring help on the wing, the Rangers lavished money Marian Gaborik’s way during the offseason despite his missing significant action during two of the past three seasons for the Minnesota Wild. When healthy, Gaborik is one of the most explosive forwards in the game, as his 219 career goals in 502 games attests.

The Rangers are banking on Gaborik maintaining his health and providing numbers similar to what he gave the Wild in 2007-08 when he played in 77 games and established career highs across the board with 42 goals, 41 assists and 83 points. In his eight seasons with the Wild, Gaborik netted 30-or-more goals five times, impressive considering the defensive style the Wild played. Gaborik has also proved to be clutch during the Stanley Cup playoffs, registering 12 goals and 10 assists in 29 career games.
 
"THEY SAID IT"
"We feel he's a dynamic player, and to win consistently in the league, you need that guy, that game-breaker....Those are key players if you want to win in this league consistently."

- Rangers’ coach John Tortorella to the New York Daily News on winger Marian Gaborik.

 
POINT OF INTEREST
1-0-1: The Penguins’ record in season openers following a Stanley Cup championship. They hope to keep that perfect record intact Friday against the Rangers.

9-0-2: Pittsburgh mark in their last 11 home games against the Rangers.
 

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