Pittsburgh Penguins (37-22-4-78) vs. New York Rangers (29-27-7-65)
09-10 Season Series: Penguins lead 4-0-1 09-10 Away vs. New York: Penguins lead 2-0 All-Time vs. New York: Penguins trail 102-104-30 All-Time Away vs. New York: Penguins trail 46-59-13 Overtime: Penguins lead 15-5-17 Shootout: Penguins trail 1-3
New York rides a three-game winning streak into Thursday night’s contest. They enter Wednesday’s games tied with the Boston Bruins for the eighth and final playoff position. The biggest problem this season for the Rangers has been in the goal-scoring department. They rank 22nd in the league heading into Wednesday with 165 goals. Marian Gaborik leads the team with 35 goal, fifth-most in the league, but that is more than double No. 2 leading-scorer Ryan Callahan. New York’s head coach, John Tortorella, was an assistant coach for Team USA at the 2010 Olympics.
Olli Jokinen – New York was one of the first teams to enter the trading derby when they acquired Jokinen and Brandon Prust from Calgary for Christopher Higgins and Alex Kotalik. Jokinen helped Finland earn a bronze medal in Vancouver as he finished second on the team in goals (3) and points (4). He has been a Penguins killer throughout his career with 33 points (17G-16) in 40 career games. He scored the winning goal in overtime against Pittsburgh on Feb. 12.
Erik Christensen – The former Penguin is currently centering the top line in New York with Vinny Prospal and Ryan Callahan. The Rangers claimed Christensen off waivers from Anaheim on Dec. 2. In 30 games with the Rangers Christensen has picked up 15 points (5G-10A) and is a plus-8. He also has hands around the net as good as any in the game. Brandon Prust/Jody Shelley – These two enforcers were brought aboard over the past month to replace Donald Brashear. Neither player adds much offensively although Prust has a solid plus-8 rating. Prust leads the Rangers with 132 penalty minutes while Shelley has picked up 78 minutes.
Artem Anisimov – Anisimov has hit the rookie wall of sorts over the past two months but that hasn’t stopped the 21-year-old from excelling against the Penguins. Over his past 28 games the Russian center has notched just five points (2G-3A), but three of those (2G-1A) have come in two games against the Penguins. Still, the young sniper is a high-end talent. He scored 37 goals and had 81 points last season for Hartford in the American Hockey League.
Sean Avery – Love him or hate him, Avery fulfills his role on the ice as well as any player in the NHL. He can agitate an opponent on one shift and score on the next. His one downfall is a propensity to take ill-advised penalties. Avery is coming off a two-point (1G-1A) effort against Ottawa on Tuesday.
Brandon Dubinsky – New York’s up-and-coming young pivot has been one of the Rangers top two-way players with 32 points (14G-18A) and a team-best plus-12 rating in 50 games. He missed 13 games earlier in the year due to a broken wrist. In addition to being a top playmaker, Dubinsky also adds a physical element to the equation for New York. His next goal will set a new career high.
Chris Drury – Although his offensive numbers with the Rangers are down this season, Drury proved he is still among the top all-around players with his performance for Team USA in Vancouver. In addition to being one of the Americans’ top penalty killers, Drury tallied a huge goal against Canada in the final game of the preliminary round to break a 2-2 tie en route to a 5-3 American victory. Drury has 10 goals and 22 points in 58 games this season for New York.
Marian Gaborik – The Penguins might not have to deal with Gaborik on Thursday night as he sat out New York’s contest with Ottawa on Tuesday with a thigh laceration. Gaborik played just one period against the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Feb. 12. He leads the Rangers in all offensive categories with 35 goals, 34 assists and 69 points in his first season in New York. Gaborik led a surprising Team Slovakia squad with four goals in Vancouver.
Vinny Prospal – The much-traveled Prospal has been New York’s best forward this season not named Marian Gaborik. The superb playmaker ranks second on the team with 33 assists and 47 points in 56 games. A sneaky performer in the offensive zone, Prospal quickly formed good chemistry with Gaborik as they have spent a majority of the season playing together.
Sean Avery Chris Drury
Michael Del Zotto – The 19-year-old blueliner parlayed a strong training camp into a surprise roster spot. The rookie has not disappointed as the Rangers’ highest-scoring defender with 26 points (6G-20A) in 61 games. Del Zotto is an excellent skater and has proven extremely capable of running the point on the power play. Like any young player, he needs work in his own end, which is evidenced by his minus-18 rating.
Matt Gilroy – Gilroy is yet another rookie defenseman who has stepped up this season for the Rangers. Last season’s Hobey Baker Award winner at Boston University is not a player who is going to wow you at either end of the rink, and that is actually a tremendous compliment to him. He is solid all-around and has the foot speed to match up with faster forwards. Gilroy has a solid plus-3 rating in 58 games.
Michael Rozsival – A 30-plus point scorer in each of his first four seasons with the Rangers, Rozsival’s numbers are down slightly this season thanks to the emergence of the team’s younger rearguards. The former Penguin is a very good skater and has a hard, accurate slap shot. He plays on the second power play and kills penalties. He ranks third among Rangers defensemen in ice time at 20:33 minutes per game.
Marc Staal – Jordan’s older brother has taken tremendous strides forward in his third season. Marc leads New York in ice time (22:54) and his plus-5 rating is the best among Rangers defenders as he continues to be a strong defensive presence. This season Staal has added more of an offensive flair with career highs across the board in goals (5), assists (18) and points (23). Like the rest of his talented family, Staal is blessed with a 6-foot-4, 209-pound body he uses to win most battles in the corner and around the net.
Matt Gilroy Marc Staal
Henrik Lundqvist – The Rangers enter Wednesday’s action tied for the eighth and final playoff spot. Henrik Lundqvist is the No. 1 reason why. He might not have the wins or goals-against average he has posted in years past but his .920 save percentage ranks 10th in the league. The workhorse netminder has appeared in 70-plus games for three straight seasons. His win totals have been 30, 37, 37 and 38 his first four seasons. Lundqvist was once again spectacular for Team Sweden in Vancouver, leading the tournament with a 1.34 goals-against average and posting a .927 save percentage.
Alex Auld – New York’s struggle to find a quality backup for Lundqvist ended over the weekend when they claimed Auld off waivers from the Dallas Stars. Auld was deemed expendable in Dallas following the acquisition of Kari Lehtonen from Atlanta. Earlier this season Auld’s play had earned him extra time as Marty Turco struggled. At 6-foot-4 Auld is one of the taller netminders in the NHL.
Henrik Lundqvist Alex Auld
Ryan Callahan - When opposing general managers engage in trade talks with Rangers general manager Glen Sather, Callahan’s name is always among the first brought up. While he isn’t a big-time goal scorer, Callahan proved in Vancouver why this is the case. Despite ranking second on New York with 17 goals and fourth with 34 points, Callahan’s strength is his ability to play at both ends of the rink. He teamed with Chris Drury as the top penalty-killing pair on Team USA. Callahan is also among the most abrasive forwards in the game, ranking second in the league with 241 hits. In just his second full NHL season he is already an alternate captain.
“I think right when I jumped on the ice I was still competing at (an Olympic) speed and (Olympic) level, and I found it helped me out a lot.” - Rangers and Team USA forward Ryan Callahan speaking to Yahoo! Sports following his two-goal night versus Ottawa on Tuesday.
“I have always loved this city and loved playing in the building. And it’s a chance to work with (Rangers goaltending coach) Benoit Allaire and play with one of the best goalies in the world. All those things are good. It’s really exciting.” - Rangers goaltender Alex Auld talking to the Rangers official team website after being claimed off waivers earlier in the week.
"He's a good, hard-working winger. He drives to the net hard. He's a good player. I think it's a good addition.” - Ruslan Fedotenko on the Penguins’ acquisition of fellow Ukrainian native Alexei Ponikarovsky.
9-1-1 The Rangers have a 9-1-1 record this season when Brandon Dubinsky scores a goal
1,810 New York leads the NHL with 1,810 hits as a team